“How would I leave some money to the Church in my will?” Ensign, Aug. 1975, 23–24
Isaac M. Stewart, businessman and attorney and retiring president of the Tabernacle Choir The editors of the Ensign have asked me to respond to this very good question, not because I am the spokesman for the Church on this matter, but because I was referred to them by the First Presidency when this question arose. We probably were referred because of the action taken by our family concerning this matter.
First, as an attorney, let me say that leaving money to the Church in one’s will is a relatively easy procedure, and no one should be discouraged by thinking that the procedure is difficult or expensive or filled with red tape.
Second, from my conversations over the years with the presidents of the Church, beginning with President Heber J. Grant, and others of the Brethren, and as a result of my 13-year association with the Tabernacle Choir and through other associations, I can honestly assure anyone that the Church would gratefully accept such bequests. We certainly can put this in perspective when we think about the expanding worldwide Church, the construction of chapels, temples, and schools, the almost overwhelming need for the Church scriptures to be published in many new languages by the hundreds of thousands (even millions) of volumes, and for the great need for missionary assistance to many of our wonderful Saints who come from economic circumstances not as favorable as others. Anyone who thinks for only a few minutes about what the Church is doing around the world for mankind will soon see how much the Church would gratefully appreciate receiving such bequests if the bestowers willingly wished to share their blessings with the Lord and “walk the extra mile.”
In this spirit, some time ago, my wife and I felt that inasmuch as all of our temporal blessings and spiritual blessings were bestowed upon us by our Father in heaven, our obligation and privilege to continue the contribution of our efforts—as represented by our temporal means—should not end when we were called to return beyond the veil. It was felt that this could best be done by providing in our wills that a percentage “off the top of our assets” should be left to the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So, being a close-knit family, and typical of hundreds of thousands of other Latter-day Saint families, it was decided to have this provision written in our Last Will and Testament. But we wanted our children to know why we were doing it and to receive their reaction. We received an exhilarating and spiritual response. Each of the children expressed not only his approval, but joy that we were making that provision. We explained that should the amount be 10 percent or 33 percent or 50 percent, it most certainly would not be in lieu of any unpaid tithing, and that this did not relieve them of their payment of tithing on their “interest” received under the provisions of the will. The family members expressed themselves as not only being enthusiastic about this action, but they told us they were going to go and do likewise.
In terms of specifics, for Church members in the United States who desire to make this provision in their will, it can be done by an holographic codicil (an addition or amendment to your present will), written and signed, and dated by hand, on a plain piece of white paper. It can also be accomplished, of course, as part of your Last Will and Testament. I am sure that a lawyer, perhaps a member of the Church, would be happy to advise you on this particular point of law. Of course, different countries and states have different requirements, and therefore, a lawyer should be consulted.
It would seem to me that these things could be discussed at a special home evening, which would make the occasion more spiritual and uplifting.
To me, the whole concept is joyful. To be able to continue to assist the Lord in sustaining missionary work, building meetinghouses and temples, and contributing to other righteous expenditures of his kingdom—concurrently with our own labors on this and the other side of the veil—would be an eternal privilege.
As I have thought about our earthly and temporal blessings, in a sense, all unequally distributed and unequally earned in terms of one’s personal worthiness before the Lord, I have realized that everything we have is of the Lord. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. We are his agents and stewards over a portion of its resources. Thus, it matters not whether one is of moderate means or whether one is blessed with great wealth, or whether one is limited to the “widow’s mite,” it does seem to me to be part of the entire covenant of giving of our time, our talents, and our means to the work of the Lord to contemplate personal and unsolicited bequests such as we have discussed.
As I understand it, we are expected to engage in many good causes and expected to do many things of our own free will, and this brings to pass much righteousness. Thus, the Lord says that we do have the power in us, wherein we are agents unto ourselves, to do many things to bless others and the Lord’s great and truly magnificent latter-day work. (See D&C 58:25–33.)