Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Tithing Settlement, 1896

Tithing Settlement, 1896

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 14, 2010

‘Tis the season … for tithing settlement, the season when bishops and clerks grow a little grayer (or a little balder), when their wives and children start to forget what the pater familias looks like, when ward members with clear consciences rush to sign up for appointments … and others dodge around corners and exit the building via little-used doors, in order not to pass by the sign-up sheets so that they can conveniently “forget.”

Tithing settlement has long been a major annual chore. Let us hope it is easier on bishops and clerks than it was in 1896, when these instructions went out to all wards and stakes – a day when tithes were still collected in kind as well as in cash, and when written orders on the Presiding Bishop’s Office were still a major factor of life in the Mormon economy.


Settlement of Tithes for the Year 1896.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, Dec. 1st, 1896,

To the Presidents of Stakes, Bishops of Wards and Stake Tithing Clerks in Zion:

BRETHREN: – We forward you blanks for the rendering of your annual statements of tithes received and disbursed for the fiscal year closing December 31st, 1896, as follows:

Blank No. 1. Ward Tithing Record;
[Blank] No. 2. [Ward] Account Current;
[Blank] No. 3. [Ward] Balance Sheet;
[Blank] No. 4. [Ward] Inventory;
[Blank] No. 5. Stake Account Current;
[Blank] No. 6. [Stake] Balance Sheet;
[Blank] No. 7. [Stake] Inventory.


This should contain the names of all the tithe payers and the kind and amounts each pay. The names should be arranged in alphabetical order exercising care in getting the proper and full name of each tithe payer; group similar names together, particularly in the instance of families, entering seniors or heads of families first. This record when filled and returned to us is carefully bound and preserved for refer[e]nce, hence neatness of penmanship and care in arrangement should be strictly observed.


Upon these blanks should be entered:

1st. The tithes on hand at beginning of the year, which should correspond with the actual amounts reported on hand at the close of the preceding year.

2nd. Receipts under headings indicated in Balance Sheet. (Give in detail “Receipts from other sources.”)

3rd. Disbursements during year under headings also indicated in Balance Sheet, together with balances on hand:

Separate the “P.B.O.” Orders from receipts, and in listing both, note the series, number, and amount of each, entering them consecutively. All such orders and receipts for the current year should be forwarded with your returns to the Presiding Bishop’s Office.

Tithes disbursed on “P.B.O.” Orders should be separated into two divisions.

First – Entering orders for which the General Office is charg[e]able (Column in Balance Sheet 8a.)

Second – Entering orders for which the Stake or Ward is charg[e]able, under proper sub-headings, as follows: Disbursed on orders to Presidency of Stake, Temple Associations, Charity, Board of Education, Meeting Houses, etc. (Column in Balance Sheet 8b.)


These blanks give a recapitulation of “Accounts Current” in a condensed form.

NOTE: – Provision is made on these blanks for entering balances unpaid on “P.B.O.” Orders at the close of the year, by placing such amounts yet due, opposite title of “Liabilities” and in column of “P.B.O.” Orders paid (8a and 8b). Such amounts due should be deducted (in total) from balance on hand December 31st, 1896, in the place provided for this entry, at foot of Balance Sheet. The balance remaining, when added to your total disbursements, will equal your receipts. (Same entries should be made in “Accounts Current” when treating these unpaid accounts.)


These should contain an itemized statement of articles actually on hand, at the close of the fiscal year, together with their respective values.

The total of the “inventory” should correspond with the amount of tithes reported on hand in “Balance Sheet” and “Account Current.”

All “P.B.O.” Orders on wards or Stakes when presented should be TAKEN UP, CHARGED US, AND PAID IN FULL, When this cannot be done, take the order up, credit the party in whose favor it is drawn with the full amount of the order and then charge that account with payments made on same. Make efforts to pay such balances before the close of the year. However, should balances remain unpaid on these accounts at the end of the year, they can be accounted for as indicated in a previous paragraph.

NOTE: – Never endorse payments on our orders.


The Bishops should, as soon as possible after December 31st, commence the settlement of their tithing and make up ONE copy of their “Ward Tithing Record” and TWO c pies each of their “Account Current,” “Balance Sheet,” and “Inventory,” furnishing same to the Stake Tithing Clerk ON OR BEFORE FEBRUARY 1ST, 1897.

Bishops should record int heir Ward Ledger, copies of their “Balance Sheet,” “Account Current,” and “Inventory,” for future reference.

When found correct and properly attested and approved by the Stake Presidency, the Stake Tithing Clerk will forward to the Presiding Bishop’s Office ONE copy EACH of the following reports: Ward “Tithing Records,” Ward “Accounts Current,” Ward “Balance Sheets,” and Ward “Inventory”; Stake “Account Current,” Stake “Balance Sheet,” and Stake “Inventory,” together with receipts, orders, etc. IT IS EARNESTLY DESIRED THAT THESE REPORTS BE SENT TO US ON OR BEFORE MARCH 1ST, 1897.

Vouchers should be taken for all disbursements made under headings of columns 12, 13 and 14 of “Balance Sheet,” and SEPARATE STATEMENTS furnished us of such disbursements, under proper sub-headings, when not detailed in “Account Current.”

In forwarding tithes to the “Bishop’s General Store House,” always send an invoice of same, specifying articles sent and local market value.

Produce and Miscellaneous Tithes, for credit in 1896 must be paid into the Bishop’s General Store-House ON OR BEFORE JANUARY 2ND, 1897. The books of the Presiding Bishop’s Office will remain open until February 1st, 1897, for CASH REMITTANCES ONLY, from Bishops and Stake Tithing Clerks for credit in 1896.

We desire again to call the attention of the Bishops to the necessity of allowing only market values for Produce and Stock Tithing.

When persons pay tithing in a Ward where they do not reside, certificates stating the kind and amount of Tithing paid in that Ward should be furnished them for such credit, so that in settling their tithing in the ward where they reside, said certificate may be shown to the Bishop and entered as a memorandum upon the Ward Book and Tithing Record, with the amount and kinds paid, but not carried out as tithes received in that Ward; this will enable the Bishop to determine the amount of Tithing paid, and avoid the transfer of such amounts from one Ward to another. Blank certificates for use in such cases will be furnished from the “Presiding Bishop’s Office” on application.

The Bishops or acting bishops should designate (as early in January as possible) a time for the final settlement of tithing, and should be present at such settlements; every member of his ward should be notified of the time and place.

The Stake Tithing Clerks, when requested, should assist the Bishops in the rendering of their accounts and see that the instructions relating to the reports are carried out. In many instances Stake returns have not been rendered us until weeks after the designated time for their receipt. This should not occur in the future. If the settlement of Tithes is begun immediately after January the 1st there is no reason why the returns cannot be rendered more promptly.

Very truly, Your Brethren in the Gospel,

First Presidency.

Presiding Bishopric.



  1. Whoa. Some consolation, perhaps, in that the clerks and the Bishops were generally still getting paid during this time.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 14, 2010 @ 9:26 am

  2. I hope it isn’t too tangential, but when did the clergy move to being unpaid? Also, I have heard that you used to have to bring in proof of income etc. to tithing settlement, but that seems odd, in that it was in kind. Any idea how all that worked out over time?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 14, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  3. Tithing settlement is obviously much simplified, but I cringe at the sheer amount of time to do all of these reports and records manually. Even into the 1970’s there were issues that if clerks didn’t record your name the same each time you made a donation, you could end up with multiple tithing accounts for, say, John Doe, John A. Doe, Jonathan Doe, etc, which then had to be all reconciled and tied back to one account. I think it was the church’s first attempt at computerizing records, and it only extended to finance records at the time. All of the membership records still came from Salt Lake on paper until sometime in the 1980’s, I believe.

    Having served on the stake audit committee recently, I can say that auditing this process as described would have been a nightmare. I can only assume that audits were probably being done at some level in 1896, but did they audit every ward and stake?

    Comment by kevinf — December 14, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  4. Matt, I don’t know what date the switch was made, or if it was sudden or gradual. I don’t know the date, either, when they stopped asking patrons to pay non-family members for temple work either — I wonder if all that kind of thing just gradually disappeared, or whether it was all tied together. Not sure how to find out, but it’s the kind of thing I’ll pay attention to when I find clues in the future — anyone know if anybody (Quinn? it seems a Quinnish thing) has written about it?

    Church financial records, generally even those from the 19th century, are still treated as confidential and restricted in the archives, although some researchers have been able to use some records for particular approved studies. Can’t help thinking, though, that all that paper — and it must be an enormous pile, given what’s outlined in this single circular — has to be good for some terrific studies in the future by people who know how to extract meaning from it all.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 14, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Agreed, Ardis, there has to be some spectacular possibilities with it. Ron Watt’s bio of George Watt shows one example how such financial data can be employed.

    Quinn has written on it, and I forget the precise details. It seems to me (without looking it up) that it was in the 1910s or 1920s that they stopped paying. I remember that Spencer W. Kimball was a payed Stake Clerk for some time. Also (without looking it up) I seem to remember people being paid during the Depression for temple work.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 14, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  6. Complicating this tithing calculus further is the basic disaster of Church financial record keeping during this period. Alexander writes of this, but it wasn’t until the JFS administration that the financial system was modernized.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 14, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  7. I think that this should be printed out and passed out to all the bishops and clerks in the church so that there won’t be any crabbing about tithing settlement.

    The last time (before this year) that I conducted tithing settlement was 1984–the church had computers at headquarters, but none in the wards or stakes. So a huge pile of reports, listing all the donors and amounts donated would arrive sometime in November, and the clerk was supposed to go through and combine all the same names (but spelled in various imaginative ways) into one. And then there was the fun of correcting errors–especially fun if a donor’s check had bounced somewhere along the way. But all the work locally was done with paper and pencil and a calculator. Still, it was simple compared to 1896.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 14, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  8. I was reading in “The Mormon Village” a couple of nights ago that only the Stake Clerk was paid out of all the Ward and Stake officials. What I don’t recall was if the table was for 1923 – the first year of the study – or in the 1953 when the study was wrapped up. I’ll look it up when I get home.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — December 14, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  9. My first post-mission calling was as a ward financial clerk in a BYU student ward — pre-computers. Fortunately I somehow missed tithing settlement (I think I started after the Christmas break and I left that ward six months later when I got married), but we did everything by hand, including individually typed weekly donation receipts on forms that were then scanned at headquarters.

    Even the early Financial Information System was a huge step up for the clerks when our ward started using it in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s when we bought a computer with excess budget funds before moving to the new centralized budget system.

    But when I lived in Venezuela in the mid 1990’s, we had no computer at the ward level; all local donation information was hand-written and submittted to the Caracas PBO for entry into the computer system. Members were assigned a four-digit number to identify them to the clerk in Caracas. One year, when I was bishop, our ward clerk regularly assigned the four-digit number of a family who had moved to a new family so that by year end, the annual tithing statements were “arroz con mango” — I don’t think they were ever fully sorted out.

    Comment by Paul — December 15, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  10. What J. Stapley said. According to D.M. Quinn, the First Presidency announced the end of salaries for local officers at the April 1896 General Conference. But the practice didn’t end at that time. “As late as 1910, local officers continued to receive 10 percent of locally collected tithing ‘for handling tithes.’ Recently a Mormon said that his father received a cash allowance as bishop in the 1920s, which was a later period of such compensation than my own research has verified.”

    Comment by Justin — December 15, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  11. Apparently, in 1888 the Stake Presidencies and Bishops moved towards salaries, and I have some documentation for the 1888 salaries of a couple of stakes, which are different (not all stakes required the same amount of work to manage).

    I also was able to checked some of my research notes and I have documentation of Temple Workers getting paid salaries in 1914 and 1915. I have financial records from 1924 and 1925 for the temples, which include amounts paid for ordinance work.

    I can’t really comment beyond that.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 15, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  12. As a adjunct to salaries being paid, there was a time when members who met certain criteria (which I believe dealt primarily with income and health) would be paid .50 cents for each proxy endowment they did in the Salt Lake Temple. This program was started by Brigham Young, when endowments were carried out in the Endowment House, and was still ongoing into the early 1960s. It was in effect only for the Salt Lake Temple. I have a receipt, dated November 1926, that was given to the estate of a Sister who had passed on. This was how funds, or at least one of the way funds were obtained for this program, people donated funds to the fund. The receipt clearly states Salt Lake Temple, has a transaction number, amount of the donation, a date, a space for the name of the donor, and a space where the number of male or female endowments was entered (the amount donated divided by the going rate equaled the number put in to this space), and a signature block.

    Comment by Jim — December 16, 2010 @ 7:23 am

  13. I received my endowments in 1955 in the St. George Temple, and did many endowments in that Temple in the spring of 1958 after my mission. I didn’t receive any payment for those endowments. Interesting that payments were made for endowments in the SL temple but not for other Utah temples. Of course, we’re talking about policies not doctrine, and policies aren’t necessarily logical; and policies change as conditions change.

    Comment by Allen — December 16, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  14. I was a ward financial clerk in Phoenix for four years in the early 1970s. I did have to type individual receipts, but there was a procedure I followed to have all donations received for a particular person entered under the same name. This procedure was used monthly (maybe weekly?) I did have to do a monthly reconciliation with an adding machine. Tithing settlement was no big deal, since the receipts were scanned by the PBO and reports on donations were sent back to the ward. I’m glad I wasn’t a financial clerk in earlier years before the use of computers became the norm.

    Comment by Allen — December 16, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  15. Thanks, Jim. We’ve talked on Keepa a little bit about those payments, which were not payments-for-ordinances per se, but rather compensation for time donated in an era when the ritual required an entire day’s service — it was Family A’s responsibility to do the work for their own ancestors, and if they needed the help of someone from Family B to help do it, it was Family A’s responsibility to compensate them for their time). Men consequently received more than women did for the ordinances, too, reflecting the socially acceptable idea that men’s time and labor was always worth more than women’s time and labor. I’d date the beginning of the program, too, a bit later, because virtually all endowments in the Endowment House were for the living; proxy work for the dead didn’t resume on a scale that called for help from non-relatives until after the St. George Temple was dedicated. These token payments also allowed elderly people who otherwise had very limited incomes but were eager to spend their last years in temple service to support themselves.

    I’ve never seen any of the bookwork associated with these payments — your receipt is very, very interesting! Would you be willing to share a scan of it to post as a guest post here at Keepa? If so, please send it to Keepapitchinin (at) AOL (dot) com (note that it’s -inin rather than just -in at the end). I’m not the only one, I think, who would enjoy seeing it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 16, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  16. wow- I didn’t understand most of that, but it sounds interesting and confusing, definitely a complicated process.

    And what #15 wrote is quite intersting, that people would expect to pay others for that type of service and especially that men were paid more than women.

    Comment by nita — December 16, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  17. I’ll second that, Jim. Two of my g-g grandmothers were involved in working in the Salt Lake Temple back in those days before social security, and I’d love to see some of the paperwork from that time.

    Comment by Researcher — December 16, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  18. Count this as another vote for access to that receipt, Jim. I would dearly love to see it. 1926 is just one year removed from the account information I have. It would be fun to guesstimate from the combined information how much of the work was supporting people in need.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 16, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  19. It would be interesting to see a “top 10” list of things that would surprise a modern day member were they to suddenly be a member of a ward 100 or 150 years ago.

    Comment by R — January 17, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

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