Recently, a blog called "nearing kolob" posted an article that raised the question of whether or not the LDS Church is paying its own members to see the film. They even posted a screen shot of an email they feel is evidence that the LDS Church is paying members to go see this film. See below:
In looking at this screenshot of this alleged letter that was sent out, I find it interesting that the show times of the film is blacked out and the location of the theater is blacked out. And we can't see the name of the person who drafted the letter. To me, that seems odd. That information isn't confidential or private. It is public information. Yet it is blacked out. Another thing that is odd about the photo above is the cost of the movie theater tickets. I have never heard of a theater where the cost of a film is $15.00.
But lets get back to the question. Is the LDS Church paying its own members to go to the film? I don't think so. I saw the film last night. The Stake provided the tickets to the film for free. That means that the Church paid for the tickets. However, they're providing free tickets to anyone who accepted their offer of free tickets. I will post a screen shot of the email I got from my stake regarding this offer to see the film for free. See below:
Here's the screen shot of the email I received when I requested tickets for the film:
The reason why there is a "controversy"over about the LDS Church either paying for a portion of the cost of a ticket or paying for the entire ticket because they feel that the LDS Church is doing something similar to what a record company sometimes do in buying their own records just to get the music on the best seller list.
However, I don't think this is what the LDS Church is doing. I don't think they are intentionally trying to inflate the box office numbers just to get more media attention. Is it possible that the Church is doing this? Yes. But local Wards and Stakes encourage people to participate in Church sponsored activities such as youth conference, scout camp, girls camp and other activities and depending on the activity, sometimes the members will either pay the entire cost or part of the cost of participating in the activity. Sometimes the local branch, ward or stake will pay for the entire cost of the activity. In the event where members are to pay for cost of the activity, there are members of the ward who may not be able to afford the cost of the activity. In that case, those that don't feel they can afford it have their share paid by the ward.
Is it right to use "tithing funds" to for Church sponsored activities? I think so. This happens all of the time. The Church would not be using fast offering funds to subsidize or provide free tickets for this film. However, tithing funds, at best, are being used to pay for the tickets indirectly since wards are given a budget each quarter, and the budget is supplied by tithing funds. To pay for the cost of these tickets would probably come from the ward's budget, which is used with the bishop's or stake president's approval.
I'd like to point out that other religions use funds that they have received from their members to pay for Church sponsored events. It happens in other faiths too.
For me, the fact that the LDS Church is helping people afford the cost of the movie ticket or providing free tickets is not an issue for me. I assume it is not an issue for a large majority of Church members.