A talk on tithing

On January 27, 2008, I gave the following talk in Sacrament meeting:

Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the privilege to be able to speak to you this morning. I’m especially grateful for my beautiful wife’s words, and I pray that the Spirit will help me choose my words carefully, and that we all may continue to be edified. I would like to talk a little this morning on the blessings of tithing.

Introduction

The prophet Malachi wrote,

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.[1] 

Let’s expand on this scripture a bit.

“All material and spiritual things are [the Lord’s] to give as He sees fit. Included in His ‘blessings from heaven’ are revelations from Him in one’s personal life. All blessings are, of course, conditional.[2] He desires to bless His faithful children abundantly.[3]

“The devourer may mean locusts and other pests to agriculture, but it may refer to Satan as well. The Lord promised that the fruits of the ground and vine will not come forth ahead of their time when they would be of little or no value. The implication is that our efforts to provide for ourselves would be blessed and bear fruit in their season. ‘Because of the blessings that will come to the faithful, they will be recognized by the world around them, both individually and as a people.’”[4]

Most of the times when people talk about the blessings of tithing, financial, or temporal, blessings are brought up. While the law of tithing is a commandment that deals with our finances, the blessings are not wholly reflected materially. There are some very real spiritual blessings that come with paying tithes.

Heber J. Grant taught,

“The blessings we have been promised are both material and spiritual. If we give willingly, Heavenly Father will help us take care of our daily needs for food, clothes, and shelter. He will also help us grow ‘in a knowledge of God, in a testimony, in the power to live the Gospel and inspire our families to do the same.’”[5]

 In addition to the blessings that we receive from paying tithing, I would also like to discuss blessings that others receive from tithing.

 Obtaining Blessings Through Tithing

No discussion about blessings is complete without bringing up how to obtain those blessings. The first scripture that came to mind when I was preparing this section was Doctrine and Covenants 82, verse 10: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” When Nephi is relating to us his family’s journey from Jerusalem to the Red Sea, he writes, “[a]nd if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.”[6] And finally, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith: “[T]hose who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever.”[7]

Essentially, we will receive the blessings of tithing when we pay one-tenth of our income to the Lord. Our daily lives are like Nephi and his family’s journey in the wilderness. We will be provided for, strengthened, and nourished. And the Lord is bound to do this – He must keep His promise to us – if we pay a full tithe. 

I submit to you, my brothers and sisters, that as with all commandments, the law of tithing is a test. In John 7:17 we read, “If any man do [the Lord’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine.” This is a promise that we will gain a testimony of tithing as we pay it. Not only will we gain a testimony, but our faith in the Lord will increase as well. It has been mentioned before by people much wiser than me that faith is like a muscle: it must be exercised in order to grow and strengthen, and when it is not exercised, it grows weaker.

At this point, before I start talking about the blessings of tithing, I would like to bring up an interesting point. Our goal in this life is to become more like our Savior, or in other words, become perfect. We know that we will not reach perfection in our lives: this is why we rely heavily on the principle of repentance and the gift of the Atonement. However, when it comes to living the law of tithing, we can be perfect. Parents can also help children be perfect in this law. President Hinckley says,

“Let us teach our children while they are yet young of the great opportunity and responsibility of paying tithing. If we do so, there will be another generation, and yet another, who will walk in the ways of the Lord and merit His promised blessing.”[8]

The Spiritual Blessings of Paying Tithing

Now, about the blessings of paying tithing. Let’s begin by talking about the spiritual blessings. I commented earlier that sometimes spiritual blessings are not talked about when talking about tithing; it is fitting that they are mentioned first here. The biggest blessing that we receive by paying our tithing, bar none, manifests itself in a two inch-by-three inch card: our temple recommend. The temple recommend is our passport to the following blessings: receiving our endowment, being sealed to family members for time and eternity, and the opportunity to return to the temple often to help others have those same blessings. A young man or young woman must receive his or her endowments before going on a mission. If he or she is not a full-tithe payer, they cannot get those endowments and have to wait to serve a mission. A youth cannot receive a limited use temple recommend from the Bishop without being a full tithe-payer. I find it interesting that these blessings are not just blessings for the tithe-payer alone. Those among us who have been to the temple know the joys of temple worship. Despite the fact that we are encouraged to attend the temple as often as possible, we can only attend twice for ourselves. The remainder of the time we are serving other people: those who are waiting to have the saving ordinances performed for them, and those who have submitted those names to the temple and are relying on us to do the work. Think about that for a second: paying tithing not only gives you blessings, but allows you the privilege of being able to bless others.

 “The really serious challenges in life require not so much temporal resources, but the gifts of the Spirit. Among such challenges might be the sickness, suffering, or death of a loved one; a rebellious and disobedient family member; false accusations; and other severe disappointments. During such trials we need increased faith, inspiration, comfort, courage, patience, and the ability to forgive. [I would add gratitude to that list.] These blessings can be poured out of the windows of heaven.”[9]

Paying tithing offers an additional blessing that falls somewhere between spiritual and temporal. Paying tithing helps us develop self-mastery, a necessary quality for a disciple of the Savior. We have been instructed, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”[10] “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”[11] I am currently enrolled in an Economics course. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be, to be honest. One of the first things we did in that course was define economics as a science: “the study of man using limited resources to satisfy unlimited wants.” I found that interesting. Now, as a disclaimer, I am not someone whom I would consider having unlimited wants. I have simple needs: shelter and food for me and my family, transportation to and from work, and the occasional Gladys Knight and the Pips album. I’m sure there are people out there who want more than that. In any case, by making the commitment to live the law of tithing, you are taking that ten percent that you would use for whatever other purpose, and giving it to the Lord. That has an important side effect. By placing such a high importance on the first ten percent of your income, it automatically makes the other ninety percent that much more important. You are more careful with how you allocate your resources; you are more careful of your stewardship.

Temporal Blessings of Paying Tithing

 Tithing, of course, can offer us temporal blessings as well. Many of us here have either experienced first-hand or know the story of somebody who has been faced with the choice of either paying their tithing or providing for their family. These stories end with tithing being paid, and the Lord providing for the family in their time of need. This is a marvelous blessing. Many of these temporal blessings fulfill the families’ needs, yet still serve as reminders of the spiritual experience that accompanies them.

 I would like at this time to relate a story to you about a very, very close friend of mine. We refer to each other as brother and sister, which is no small feat given that we are over 9,000 miles apart. Her name is Ishla, and she lives in Chennai, a city in southeast India. We met while we were assigned to be on a project together at work. As time went on, we got to know each other better, and we soon started discussing religion. For both of us, finding an active Christian at work was a relief, and we instantly began building on that common bond. I invited her to attend church and meet with the missionaries, and eventually that came to pass. Not long after, she was baptized, and is now serving as Relief Society president for her branch at the ripe old age of 25. One of the memories that I have from our conversations together is her asking me if she could pay tithing at this new church. That really struck me: here was someone who was so committed to living the law of tithing, that one of her first concerns about our church was the ability to pay it. I asked her about that, and she said:

 “I came to know that [tithing] is a commandment. When I paid my tithing continuously I felt really good, and I could not wait to give my tithing for the following month. But I’d say it was not easy at times. Though I knew that if I paid my tithing I’d not have money to buy food for that month, I would still pay it. But [the Lord] fed me in so many wonderful ways.

 “I was always worried that though I pay my tithing, I [didn’t] see my blessings materially. I’ve learned that God blessed me with spiritual things. Also I’m now blessed materially. I always thought if I had money, I could [help] [those] who are in need. He truly helps me to help others in need too whenever I want to help them wholeheartedly. I know that if I pay my tithing, He will definitely bless me abundantly.”[12]

 Ishla’s faith and willingness to keep the commandments is an inspiration to me and to all those who know her. I have seen the blessings in her life as she pays her tithing, and I know that these blessings are available to all of us.

 Blessings for Others

 Another category of tithing’s blessings are those which I would like to refer to as “third-party” blessings. This is where someone else receives the blessing from your tithing. I’ve referred to paying tithing as something that strengthens our faith. Sometimes it is the works that can be brought about by our faith that make the difference. Spencer W. Kimball explains:

 “’Faith without works is dead,’ says James. Properly, all contribute labor and services and funds. Everyone, regardless of size or age, who earns small or larger amounts pays his tithing – the just and equitable law of sacrifice and bounty. It not only tests the faith of the payer and assures him limitless blessings, but fills a reservoir with funds from which amounts may be drawn by the proper authorities for many useful purposes, each again requiring cooperative action. A chapel is needed in South Africa, and…there comes from the tithing reservoir the larger amount to pay for the edifice. In Chicago or Macon or Tucson or Missoula, or in any other of the thousands of branches or wards, the accumulated funds from the reservoir come to bring blessings which otherwise would be out of reach for the individual community. A temple is needed in Europe for the tens of thousands who cannot travel nor emigrate to the United States, and a channel is opened and cooperative funds flow to build, equip, and administer a temple there.

“A school is required for young Mexicans, otherwise deprived, and the reservoir is tapped, and buildings are constructed, teachers employed and youth trained. A fertile field for proselyting develops in a foreign country, and another faucet is turned, and wealth is drawn to buy property, establish a mission home, and pay return fares for the numerous missionaries who also, in a great cooperative effort, proselyte and bring thousands into the Church yearly.

“And numerous Church projects are made possible by mass effort which would not be possible to each individual.

“Thus from the widow in Ogden, the little child in Finland, the young Lamanite convert in Guatemala, the rich man of New York, the newsboy in Seattle, the blind woman of New Zealand come the funds in pennies and pesos, francs, and marks for the numerous progressive and productive projects of a great organization involving a million and a half people – all by cooperation of effort.”[13]

As somebody who sat on the Council of the Disposition of Tithes, President Kimball understood the sacred nature of tithes and what they are used for. Truly, tithing is a principle where all who are involved are blessed in ways beyond anything they could have imagined.

 I would be remiss at this point to not mention the programs that the Church provides, all of which are paid for or supplemented by tithing. In addition to Mutual, Enrichment night, and ward activities, utility bills for the Church buildings are paid from tithing funds. So if you have attended any of these, including Sacrament meeting or stake conference, you have been blessed by tithing. Take a moment and think of the blessings that you have received from these activities. These are additional blessings that are made possible – at least in part – by tithing.

Conclusion

 In closing, I would like to refer to a scripture from Mosiah:

 “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true, for the Lord God hath spoken it.”[14]

 And President Gordon B. Hinckley adds along the same lines:

 “Why are we such a happy people? It is because of our faith, the quiet assurance that abides in our hearts that our Father in Heaven, overseeing all, will look after His sons and daughters who walk before Him with love and appreciation and obedience. We will ever be a happy people if we will so conduct our lives. Sin never was happiness. Transgression never was happiness. Falsehood in word or behavior never was happiness. Happiness lies in obedience to the teachings and commandments of God, our Eternal Father, and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[15]

 “Even though we live the law of the tithe, we surely will experience the trials and tribulations of mortality. However, if we are right with the Lord, then, as we face adversity, we can be assured that we will be blessed with faith, strength, wisdom, and help from others – with all that is necessary not only to overcome but to learn and to grow from these experiences.”[16]

 Brothers and sisters, I can promise you that paying tithing brings countless blessings to you and to all the children of our Heavenly Father. I know that tithing is a true principle of the Lord, because I have seen the blessings in my life and in the lives of those around me. I know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ restored to the Earth, and that we are engaged in a great work – a work that goes forth around the world and cannot be stopped. It is my prayer that we can all have a strong testimony of this eternal principle, and that we may all be blessed by it, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Malachi 3:10-11.

[2] See D&C 82:10; 130:21; 132:5.

[3] 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[4] Old Testament Student Manual, Volume 2, p.354.

[5] Gospel Standards, p.58.

[6] 1 Nephi 17:3.

[7] D&C 119:4.

[8] Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Vol. 1, p.156. Taken from 10/5/97 General Conference address.

[9] “Tithing: A Privilege”, Elder Ronald E. Poelman, October 1998 General Conference address.

[10] Luke 9:23.

[11] Luke 14:27.

[12] Personal e-mail, 1/24/08.

[13] “The Spirit of Co-operation”, Improvement Era, September 1957, p.632.

[14] Mosiah 2:41.

[15] DPGBH Vol. 1, p. 213. Taken from 10/4/98 General Conference address.

[16] Poelman.

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~ by calabresi on February 3, 2008.

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