Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé says the true strength of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not in its financial reserves, but in the faith of its people.
“We are not a financial institution or a commercial corporation,” Bishop Caussé said Friday at a Church history symposium on Temple Square that focused on Mormon economic history. “We are The Church of Jesus Christ, and this Church has no other objective than that which the Lord Himself assigned to it; namely, to invite all to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.’”
Bishop Caussé said the Church is much more than its buildings or even the organization itself. “The Church is all about people. It is all about individual members who are bound together by common beliefs and covenants. They are its strength and its future,” he said.
The presiding bishop, a native of Bordeaux, France, traced the roots of a few of those common beliefs and covenants that contribute to the Church’s financial strength — including tithing, self-reliance, provident living and understanding the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Latter-day Saints in good standing donate 10 percent of their income to the Church. These tithes (along with other charitable donations) help the Church carry out its mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for the poor and strengthening members’ faith.
“Without tithing, the Church would be incapable of accomplishing its divine mission,” Bishop Caussé said. “We continually feel our great responsibility to use the sacred tithes and offerings in a manner that is appropriate and pleasing to the Lord.”
Church leaders also teach members how to provide for themselves. This includes classes that emphasize the spiritual importance of self-reliance, as well as practical principles such as gaining an education, finding a job, starting a business and managing family finances.
“By becoming self-reliant temporally and spiritually, God’s children progress in their ability to make choices independently and thus fulfill the measure of their creation,” Bishop Caussé said.
Members are also taught to prepare for financial emergencies. “Today’s Church members are conscious of the fact that they live in a period of calamities,” Bishop Caussé said. “Church leaders have frequently counseled members to practice provident living by establishing home storage, including extra water, basic food items, medications, clothing, and other supplies that could be needed in case of emergency. … This same principle of temporal preparation has also been applied at the general Church level. For example, grain silos and warehouses filled with basic emergency necessities have been established.”
Bishop Caussé said the Church’s most important priority is how to help people spiritually through a proper understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
“While we consider such things as macroeconomic indicators and financial analyses, our ultimate goal is to fulfill our responsibilities in a manner that will carry out the designs of the Lord and sacred mission of the Church ‘to invite all to come unto Christ,’” Bishop Caussé said.
And how does the institutional Church, a global faith with thousands of buildings and employees, maintain financial solvency? By staying out of debt, balancing budgets and saving and investing money to anticipate future needs.
In other words, he said, the Church “simply practices the principles that it teaches to its individual members.”