Once again, tremendous resources for this lesson are found in the reliable Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Especially helpful will be the manuals for Brigham Young, chapter 22, John Taylor, Chapter 19, Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 31, and Heber J. Grant, Chapter 13. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
In case anyone wonders why only half of the manuals have chapters on tithing, this quote from Brigham Young may suffice:
I do not suppose for a moment, that there is a person in this Church, who is unacquainted with the duty of paying tithing, neither is it necessary to have revelation every year upon the subject. There is the Law—pay one-tenth (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 155).
The new website for the Church “lds.org” is wonderful. On the first page, there is a link in the upper right-hand corner, “Search all LDS.org” which, if you type in “tithing” has terrific results. The fourth one is “Quotes: Tithing.” These quotes also lead to some truly outstanding talks on the subject.
Paying Tithes and Offerings
In this section the question is asked, “How does our willingness to pay tithes and offerings show gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all His blessings to us?” Perhaps a foundation can be laid to properly understand the answers to this question.
First, we may need to understand just how much “His blessings to us” entails. Perhaps a good place to start is a discussion of King Benjamin’s teachings in Mosiah 2:19-25.
Concerning this idea, Brigham Young taught:
The Lord has given to me all I possess; I have nothing in reality, not a single dime of it is mine. You may ask, “Do you feel as you say?” Yes, I actually do. The coat I have on my back is not mine, and never was; the Lord put it in my possession honorably, and I wear it; but if he wishes for it, and all there is under it, he is welcome to the whole. I do not own a house, or a single farm of land, a horse, mule, carriage, or wagon … but what the Lord gave me, and if he wants them, he can take them at his pleasure, whether he speaks for them, or takes them without speaking.
It is all the Lord’s and we are only his stewards.
I do not expect to see the day when I am perfectly independent, until I am crowned in the celestial kingdom of my Father, and made as independent as my Father in Heaven. I have not yet received my inheritance as my own, and I expect to be dependent until I do, for all that I have is lent to me (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 156-7).
Brigham Young continued:
It is not for me to rise up and say that I can give to the Lord, for in reality I have nothing to give. I seem to have something. Why? Because the Lord has seen fit to bring me forth, and has blessed my efforts in gathering things which are desirable, and which are termed property (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 156).
President John Taylor had some great comments on this subject:
Who made us? Who organized us, and the elements with which we are surrounded and that we inhale? Who organized the planetary system that we see around us? Who provides breakfast, dinner and supper for the millions that dwell on the face of the earth? Who clothes them, as he does the lilies of the field? Who imparts unto man his breath, life, health, his powers of locomotion, thought, and all the godlike attributes with which he is endowed? Where did they come from? Who has controlled and managed the affairs of the world from its creation until the present time? The Great I Am, the Great Eloheim, the Great God who is our Father.
God is our God in whom we put our trust; we have nothing ourselves to boast of. Have we wealth? Who gave it to us? The Lord. Have we property? Who put us in possession of it? The Lord. Our horses, cattle and sheep, our flocks, herds and possessions, are his gifts. The gold and the silver and the precious things of earth, and also the cattle upon a thousand hills, are his, and we are his… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 175-6).
President Heber J. Grant also had this to say:
Each and every blessing that you and I enjoy comes from God. We are under obligations to Him for the very breath of life, and He gives us everything that we have. He asks us to show our appreciation and acknowledge to Him His goodness, by returning to the Church for its benefit and for the spreading of the gospel at home and abroad, one-tenth of that which we receive, all of which comes from Him (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 125-6).
To help us begin to understand the answers to the question at the end of this section, “In what ways does the payment of tithes and offerings help us thank our Heavenly Father?” Brigham Young stated:
Here is a character—a man—that God has created, organized, fashioned and made,—every part and particle of my system from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, has been produced by my Father in Heaven; and he requires one-tenth part of my brain, heart, nerve, muscle, sinew, flesh, bone, and of my whole system, for the building of temples, for the ministry, for sustaining missionaries and missionaries’ families, for feeding the poor, the aged, the halt and blind, and for gathering them home from the nations and taking care of them after they are gathered (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 157).
Adding to this idea, President John Taylor similarly tutored:
We have been taught to pay our tithing, that we might acknowledge to God that we are his people, and that if he gave us all we ask, we might give one-tenth back to him, and by that act acknowledge his hand (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 173).
President Heber J. Grant approached this idea simply:
I thank God for the privilege of paying tithing. I rejoice in having the opportunity of showing my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for His mercies to me (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 127).
In conference, Elder Robert D. Hales discussed an alternative to “thank our Heavenly Father” by the “payment of tithes and offerings”:
When a friend of President George Albert Smith asked him what he thought of his friend’s personal plan to take what would have been tithing and donate his tenth in charitable donations of his own choice, President Smith’s counsel was:
“I think you are a very generous man with someone else’s property. …
“… You have told me what you have done with the Lord’s money but you have not told me that you have given anyone a penny of your own. He is the best partner you have in the world. He gives you everything you have, even the air you breathe. He has said you should take one-tenth of what comes to you and give it to the Church as directed by the Lord. You haven’t done that; you have taken your best partner’s money, and have given it away” (Ensign, Nov 2002, 26).
It may be useful to understand that, while in most churches “funds” are solicited on a weekly basis, that is not so in Christ’s Church. How many times are we asked to “pay tithing right now” at a Church meeting? Only once a year at tithing settlement does the Bishop ask us if we pay an honest tithe. Every two years we are asked if we tithe to qualify to receive a temple recommend. Of course, there are conference talks and lessons like this one every so often. But tithing is between us and the Lord.
Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a wonderful example of this in a conference talk:
Several years ago I presided over one of our missions. Two of our missionaries were teaching a fine family, and they had expressed a desire to be baptized, and then they suddenly cooled off. The father had learned about tithing and canceled all further meetings with the missionaries.
Two sad elders reported to the branch president, who himself was a recent convert, that he would not have this fine family in his branch.
A few days later the branch president persuaded the elders to join him in another visit to the family.
“I understand,” he told the father, “that you have decided not to join the Church.”
“That is correct,” he answered.
“The elders tell me that you are disturbed about tithing.”
“Yes,” said the father. “They had not told us about it; and when I learned of it, I said, ‘Now that’s too much to ask. Our church has never asked anything like that.’ We think that’s just too much, and we will not join.”
“Did they tell you about fast offering?” he asked.
“No,” said the man. “What is that?”
“In the Church we fast for two meals each month and give the value of the meals for the help of the poor.”
“They did not tell us that,” the man said.
“Did they mention the building fund?”
“No, what is that?”
“In the Church we all contribute toward building chapels. If you joined the Church, you would want to participate both in labor and with money. Incidentally, we are building a new chapel here,” he told him.
“Strange,” he said, “that they didn’t mention it.”
“Did they explain the welfare program to you?”
“No,” said the father. “What is that?”
“Well, we believe in helping one another. If someone is in need or ill or out of work or in trouble, we are organized to assist, and you would be expected to help.”
“Did they also tell you that we have no professional clergy? All of us contribute our time, our talents, our means, and travel—all to help the work. And we’re not paid for it in money.”
“They didn’t tell us any of that,” said the father.
“Well,” said the branch president, “If you are turned away by a little thing like tithing, it is obvious you’re not ready for this Church. Perhaps you have made the right decision and you should not join.”
As they departed, almost as an afterthought, he turned and said, “Have you ever wondered why people will do all of these things willingly? I have never received a bill for tithing. No one has ever called to collect it. But we pay it—and all of the rest—and count it a great privilege.
“If you could discover why, you would be within reach of the pearl of great price, which the Lord said the merchant man was willing to sell all that he had that he might obtain it.
“But,” said the branch president, “It is your decision. I only hope you will pray about it.”
A few days later the man appeared at the branch president’s home. No, he did not want to reschedule the missionaries. That would not be necessary. He wanted to schedule the baptism of his family. They had been praying, fervently praying (Ensign, Nov 1974, 87).
Perhaps, like this family had done, one of the best things we can do is pray sincerely to the Lord about the law of tithing to receive our own testimony.
Brigham Young’s comment seems appropriate here:
The people are not compelled to pay their tithing, they do as they please about it, it is urged upon them only as a matter of duty between them and their God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 155).
President Grant discussed the lack of faith to pay tithes and offerings:
God our heavenly Father has instituted laws to improve his people physically, spiritually, intellectually, and one of the best laws in all the world to make better Latter-day Saints is the law of tithing. There are many people who believe the gospel and would probably embrace it, but for the fact that they are like that young man of whom we read in the Scripture, when the Savior told him, after the young man declared that “all these things have I done,” to sell what he had and give to the poor [see Matthew 19:16-22]. Many people cannot endure the gospel because of financial requirements that are made of them, and they allow the things of this world, which they have grasped firmly and steadfastly, to rob them of the greatest of all God’s gifts, namely, life eternal. I commend the law of tithing to the Latter-day Saints (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 123-4).
Following the above quote from Matthew, Jesus taught:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23 - 24).
President Heber J. Grant had some great thoughts on the problems of rich going to heaven:
The great criterion of success in the world is that men can make money. But I want to say to you Latter-day Saints that to do this is not true success. As a man grows and increases in the things of this world, if he is not careful, he will lose the Spirit of the Lord, and he will set his heart upon the things of this world. And if he loses the Spirit of the Lord, and fails to be honest with God in the payment of his tithes as strictly and honestly as he would account to a partner if he were engaged in business, that man will lessen his strength, will lessen his power, will lessen the testimony of the Spirit of God within his soul. There is no question of it in my mind.
We must be honest with the Lord. The great trouble is that there are many people who, as they grow and increase in the things of this world, set their hearts upon them and lose the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore, that which is counted by the world as success is failure; because if a man starts out for a prize and he fails to secure it after laboring nearly a lifetime for that prize, certainly his life has been a failure. I know many individuals who, when they made small sums of money, were absolutely honest with the Lord, and paid one-tenth of it. But when they made large sums of money they paid all the way from one percent, instead of ten, up to two or three percent. What is the matter? Why, the appetite for money grows upon a man, increases and strengthens unless he is careful, just as much as the appetite for whiskey. It gets possession of him, and he loves the money instead of loving it only for the good that he can do with it. He does not estimate properly the value of things
Dollars and cents are not blessings from God. Only so far as we are blessed with intelligence, with wisdom, and with the Spirit of God to use them in a wise and proper manner, and to advance God’s kingdom on the earth are they such. If we are blessed with an abundance of this world’s goods and it shall blind our eyes … then instead of being a blessing from God it [comes] from the opposite direction (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 125,7).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave helpful counsel concerning this matter in conference:
Paying tithing is not a token gift we are somehow charitably bestowing upon God. Paying tithing is discharging a debt. Elder James E. Talmage once described this as a contract between us and the Lord. He imagined the Lord saying: “‘You have need of many things in this world—food, clothing, and shelter for your family … the common comforts of life. … You shall have the means of acquiring these things; but remember they are mine, and I require of you the payment of a rental upon that which I give into your hands. However, your life will not be one of uniform increase … [so] instead of doing as mortal landlords do—requir[ing] you to … pay in advance, whatever your fortunes or … prospects may be—you shall pay me … [only] when you have received; and you shall pay me in accordance with what you receive. If it so be that in one year your income is abundant, then … [your 10 percent will be a] little more; and if it be so that the next year is one of distress and your income is not what it was, then … [your 10 percent will be] less. … [Whatever your circumstance, the tithe will be fair.]’
“Have you ever found a landlord on earth who was willing to make that kind of [equitable] contract with you?” Elder Talmage asks. “When I consider the liberality of it all,” he says, “… I feel in my heart that I could scarcely raise my countenance to … Heaven … if I tried to defraud [God] out of that [which is rightfully His]” (Ensign, Nov 2001, 33).
How many would even consider not paying rent or mortgage or taxes, but make the decision to not pay tithing?
Dallin H. Oaks gave a sobering about the final alternative for those who choose to not give the Lord the small amount of which He asks:
The payment of tithing is a test of priorities. The Savior taught that reality when he gave this parable:
“The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
“And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
“And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21).
A modern illustration of that principle is suggested in the apocryphal story of two men standing before the casket of a wealthy friend. Asked one, “How much property did he leave?” Replied the other, “He left all of it” (Ensign, May 1994, 33).
For those who have not paid tithing or are behind in tithing, it may be important to know the following from President Joseph F. Smith:
We who have not paid our tithing in the past, and are therefore under obligations to the Lord, which we are not in position to discharge, the Lord requires that no longer at our hands, but will forgive us for the past if we will observe this law honestly in the future. That is generous and kind, and I feel grateful for it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 277).
Similarly, Elder Robert D. Hales counseled in an October conference talk:
In a few weeks each of us will have the sacred opportunity to sit once again with our bishop and settle our tithing with the Lord. Your bishop will be gentle and kind. He will understand the challenges you face. If you cannot pay back what you missed paying in the past, go forward. Begin today. Share with your bishop your commitment to pay a full tithe in the future, and work out a plan to return to the temple as soon as possible. As soon as you have demonstrated your faith in paying tithing over a period of time and kept the other necessary commandments, you will be able to enjoy the eternal blessings of the temple. I plead with you, do not let this opportunity pass by. Do not procrastinate (Ensign, Nov 2002, 26).
President John Taylor’s comment is a fitting conclusion to this section:
…we have got to put ourselves in a position to be guided and directed of the Lord in temporal as well as spiritual things, or we will never obtain that glory for which many of us are looking (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 173).
Obeying the Law of Tithing
Concerning the question beginning this section, “What is an honest tithe?” (p. 185), many have wondered whether to pay tithing on “net” or “gross” income. After quoting D&C 110:3-4, the manual reads “The First Presidency has explained that “one-tenth of all their interest annually” refers to our income (see First Presidency letter, Mar. 19, 1970)” (p. 185). This is all the explanation, as far as I have been able to determine, that the First Presidency or any apostle has given. A member of the Seventy, Elder Daniel L. Johnson, in conference did say:
President Howard W. Hunter stated it this way: “The law is simply stated as ‘one-tenth of all their interest.’ Interest means profit, compensation, increase (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 35).
But the Lord again leaves between him and us to determine what is a full tithe.
In this section, the question is asked, “In what ways is tithing a principle of faith more than a principle of finances?” A terrific example of this comes from a conference talk of Elder Robert D. Hales:
I know of two missionaries who visited a very poor family. The family’s home was made of pressboard and sticks, with a dirt floor and no electricity or beds. Each evening the father, a farm laborer, spent his entire day’s wages on groceries for dinner. Departing from their humble home, the senior companion thought to himself, “The law of tithing will surely be a stumbling block to this family. Perhaps we shouldn’t bring it up for a while.” A few moments later, the junior companion, who had grown up in similar circumstances in his own country, voiced his own thoughts aloud: “I know the principle of tithing isn’t taught for four more discussions, but can we please teach it the next time we visit? They need to know about tithing now because they need the help and the blessing of the Lord so much” (Ensign, Nov 2002, 26).
The last question in this section is “What can parents do to teach their children to pay tithing and understand its importance?” (p. 186).
A quote from Albert Schweitzer may be helpful here:
Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example.
President Heber J. Grant felt the same way:
…being strictly honest with the Lord is the most splendid way to teach your children faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. … When we set our hearts upon the things of this world and fail to be strictly honest with the Lord, we do not grow in the light and power and strength of the gospel as we otherwise would do (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 126).
Elder Robert D. Hales added wise counsel:
Too often we as parents do not teach and encourage our children to live this law because their contribution only amounts to a few cents. But without a testimony of tithing, they are vulnerable. In their teenage years, they become attracted to clothes, entertainment, and expensive possessions and risk losing the special protection that tithing provides (Ensign, Nov. 2002, 28).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also has terrific advice in this area (by the way, the other four reasons for paying tithing are terrific):
May I then suggest five reasons why all of us, rich or poor, longtime member or newest convert, should faithfully pay our tithes and offerings.
First, do so for the sake of your children and grandchildren, the rising generation, who could now, if we are not careful, grow up in the Church with absolutely no understanding as to how their temples, chapels, seminaries, and socials are provided. Teach your children that many of the blessings of the Church are available to them because you and they give tithes and offerings to the Church. Teach them that those blessings could come virtually no other way.
Then take your children to tithing settlement with you, just as President Howard W. Hunter’s grandson was taken with his father several years ago. In that experience the bishop indicated his pleasure in young Brother Hunter’s wanting to pay a full tithing. In the process of receiving the coins, he asked the lad if he thought the gospel were true. As the boy handed over his full tithing of 14 cents, this seven-year-old said he guessed the gospel was true but “it sure costs a lot of money.” Well, the buildings, programs, and materials I have mentioned do have an attached cost. That is not an unimportant lesson for our children to learn in their youth (Ensign, Nov 2001, 33).
Concerning our payment of tithes “willingly,” Brigham Young summarized this section wonderfully when he said:
If we live our religion we will be willing to pay tithing (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 156).
Concerning the title of this section, President Taylor taught:
[The Lord] wants in the first place to get men to acknowledge God [in] one little earthly principle, he wants to get them to acknowledge him, by giving him a certain little part, or one-tenth of what he gives to them to see whether they will be honest in this trifle, to see whether they will act as honorable high-minded men or not, or whether they will try to cheat him out of it. If we do this honestly and conscientiously until we have fulfilled our duty, we are then prepared for anything else. It is the principle and not the tithing we pay that is esteemed of the Lord; he cares not for our tithing, but he cares about our doing right. If we cannot be faithful in a few things, we cannot expect to be made rulers over many things [see Matthew 25:21] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 179).
President Taylor continued:
[The law of tithing] is a test to the people of God, or for us who profess to be, that we may know whether people will observe a certain specific law given by the Almighty or not, and thus have a proof of their fidelity and obedience. Now, if we abide this, all well and good; if not, it is written, “They shall not be found worthy to abide among you” [D&C 119:5] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 179).
President Taylor explained that this was the same for Jesus:
[Tithing] is a principle we are to be governed by. I am not here, you are not here, to carry out our own designs, and feelings, and purposes. Why, Jesus himself did not come to do that. According to His own words, He came not to do his own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him [see John 5:30]. And we are here not to do our own will, but the will of the Father who also sent us, and who has called us to our holy and exalted calling (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 180).
President Taylor also tied in obedience and the earlier discussed idea that everything is the Lord’s:
I am desirous to see the people observe this law of tithing because it is a plain and direct command to us. Not that I care anything personally whether people pay their tithing or not, and I do not think the Lord cares much Himself. The gold and the silver are His, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills; and to him belongs power to command all things (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 180).
Concerning the title of this section, President Joseph F. Smith also stated:
So I come to the conclusion that the principal thing about tithe paying is obedience to the law, and that more good will come to us through that obedience than to anybody else. We may be worth our tens of thousands, and pay an honest tithing on our income, making our tithing a large amount; yet the good that will come to ourselves by being obedient to the law of God will be far greater in the end than the good which our substance may do to the poor. He is more blessed who giveth alms than is he who receiveth them.
Obedience is what the Almighty requires. It was obedience that He required of Abraham…If a man is obedient to this law of tithing, he is entitled to the blessing of God himself…but if he is not obedient to this law, then there is nothing there, and he himself is deprived of the blessing that the Lord would otherwise give to him (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 281).
We Should Give Willingly
I love the “willingness” expressed by President Grant:
Tithing is a law of God and the payment of tithes brings peace and joy to the Latter-day Saint who does it. There is a satisfaction that comes into the heart of the man who is absolutely honest with the Lord, in contributing of his means to the building up of the Church of Christ, and into the heart of every true, full tithe payer (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 125).
The question is asked in this section, “Why is our attitude important as we pay tithing?” (p. 186). There are some truly wonderful examples of good attitude in payment of tithes and offerings
Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared the following:
In earlier times, tithing was paid in kind—a tenth of the herdsman’s increase, a tenth of the farmer’s produce. I am sorry that our modern cash economy deprives parents of the wonderful teaching opportunities presented by the payment of tithing in kind. In a recent book, Tongan Saints: Legacy of Faith, the author quotes a Tongan bishop’s memories of one such example:
“Grandpa Vanisi’s spirituality inspired an awe in me as a child. I remember following him daily to his plantation. He would always point out to me the very best of his taro, bananas, or yams and say: ‘These will be for our tithing.’ His greatest care was given to these ‘chosen’ ones. During the harvest, I was often the one assigned to take our load of tithing to the branch president. I remember sitting on the family horse. Grandfather would lift onto its back a sack of fine taro which I balanced in front of me. Then with a very serious look in his eyes, he said to me, ‘Simi, be very careful because this is our tithing.’ From my grandfather I learned early in life that you give only your best to the Lord” (Ensign, May 1994, 33).
During these times of “paying in kind” Brigham Young commented:
When a man wishes to give anything, let him give the best he has got (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 156).
From the life of John Taylor comes the following:
“When gathering the fruit in the fall,” his [John Taylor’s] son Moses W. Taylor wrote, “father would come and inspect the baskets and selecting the largest and best fruit would say: ‘Take the tithing out of this and be sure and pay it in full.’ ” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 175).
President McKay recalls another vivid lesson from youth:
I thank my earthly father for the lesson he gave to two boys in a hayfield at a time when tithes were paid in kind. We had driven out to the field to get the tenth load of hay, and then over to a part of the meadow where we had taken the ninth load, where there was “wire grass” and “slough grass.” As we started to load the hay, father called out, “No, boys, drive over to the higher ground.” There was timothy and redtop there. But one of the boys called back, (and it was I) “No, let us take the hay as it comes!”
“No, David, that is the tenth load, and the best is none too good for God” (New Era, Jan. 1972, 55).
Tithing and Other Offerings
This section begins with the question, “In what ways does the Church use tithing funds and other offerings?” (p. 186). From the teachings of President Grant comes the following about how the Church uses these funds:
The Lord does not need your money or mine. Compliance with the law of tithing and donations for ward meetinghouses, stake houses, academies, temples, missionary work and these various needs, are all for our good. They are but lessons that we are learning which will qualify and prepare us to become more godlike and to be fitted to go back into the presence of our heavenly Father (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 123).
President Grant also added:
The Lord loves a generous giver. No man living upon the earth can pay donations for the poor, can pay for building meetinghouses and temples, … can take of his means and send his boys and girls to proclaim this gospel, without removing selfishness from his soul, no matter how selfish he was when he started in. That is one of the finest things in all the world for men—to get to that point where the selfishness in their natures is cured. When it is eradicated from their dispositions, they are glad and anxious and willing and seeking the opportunity to do good with the means that the Lord places in their hands, instead of trying to get more of it.
The natural disposition of man, as I have often remarked, is to be selfish, sordid, and grasping; to think of self, and self alone, and figure for personal advancement. But all the teachings of the Gospel are the exact opposite of this. We find that the requirements that are made of us to pay tithes and fast-day donations … and to contribute of our means to send the Gospel to the nations of the earth—these requirements chase out of the heart of man every selfish and sordid disposition. Instead of being selfish, the faithful Latter-day Saint is filled with the love of the Gospel, filled with a desire to contribute of time and means for the onward advancement of the kingdom of God. The Gospel, if we are faithful to the requirements that are made of us of a financial nature, takes the selfish, sordid man, and makes of him a generous, noble, free-hearted individual (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 127).
There is a wonderful history in this Church in answer to the first question asked in this section. Let’s pick up the story with the administration of President Lorenzo Snow:
Following the April 1899 sessions of general conference, President Snow felt impelled to again seek the Lord in earnest prayer for wisdom in solving the Church’s financial problems. He received no immediate answer. He was nevertheless impressed that he and other General Authorities should visit
St. George and other settlements in southern Utah. At least sixteen of the Brethren, including President Joseph F. Smith, and their wives accompanied him. At the time of their visit the settlements of southern Utah were experiencing a severe drought.
On Wednesday, 17 May 1899, at the opening session of the conference in the St. George Tabernacle, President Snow told the Saints that “we are in your midst because the Lord directed me to come; but the purpose of our coming is not clearly known at the present, but this will be made known to me during our sojourn among you.”
LeRoi C. Snow, son of the President, who was reporting the conference for the Deseret News, recalled what happened: “All at once father paused in his discourse. Complete stillness filled the room. I shall never forget the thrill as long as I live. When he commenced to speak again his voice strengthened and the inspiration of God seemed to come over him, as well as over the entire assembly. His eyes seemed to brighten and his countenance to shine. He was filled with unusual power. Then he revealed to the Latter-day Saints the vision that was before him.”
President Snow told the Saints that he could see that the people had neglected the law of tithing and that the Church would be relieved of debt if members would pay a full and honest tithing. He then said that the Lord was displeased with the Saints for failing to pay their tithing and promised them that if they would pay their tithes the drought would be removed and they would have a bounteous harvest.
Following the conference session, President Snow was again impressed that the solution to the Church’s financial problems lay in the payment of tithing. In meetings held at Leeds, Cedar City, Beaver, and Juab, other southern Utah communities, he delivered powerful discourses relative to this gospel principle. In Nephi, in central Utah, a remarkable meeting was held where President Snow mentioned the revelation he had received on the law of tithing and “commissioned every one present to be his special witness to the fact that the Lord had given this revelation to him.”
At Church headquarters, President Snow again spoke powerfully about tithing at the Mutual Improvement Association conference in June. Elder B. H. Roberts then made a motion, which was unanimously adopted, that the Saints accept the doctrine of tithing now presented. Visibly moved, President Snow stood up and declared, “Every man who is here, who has made this promise, will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.”
Tithing was preached in all the stake conferences, and a year later President Snow reported that the Saints had contributed twice as much tithing during the past year as they had paid the previous two years. Under inspiration, he had set in motion the program that would, by 1907, completely free the Church from debt. Many Saints testified that not only were the windows of heaven opened to save the Church, but those who followed this divine law were spiritually and temporally blessed as well (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 454-5).
This absolutely best single volume of Church History ever written can be found at “lds.org” then click on “New Institute Website” (in the middle under “Latest Features”) then click on “Course Catalog” (at top) then scroll down to “Latter-day Saint History” (fourth on the right).
From the administration of Joseph F. Smith we next learn:
At the end of the 1800s, the Church faced a staggering financial debt, exceeding one million dollars. This financial obligation weighed heavily on Joseph F. Smith’s mind. At the October 1899 general conference he said: “We have had much valuable instruction in relation to our duties as Latter-day Saints, not only concerning the law of tithing, but also in reference to other things, which are as important in their place as the law of tithing. There is nothing, however, of greater importance to the welfare of the Church at present than the consideration of this law, by which means will be placed in the storehouse of the Lord, to meet the necessities of the people.”
One afternoon seven years later, President Smith came from his office and found his daughter Rachel in the front hall of the Beehive House.
“Where is your mother?” he inquired.
“I don’t know.”
“Where could she be?”
“I don’t know.”
“When will she be here?”
“I don’t know, Papa, I don’t know much. I just got home from school.”
“Well, baby,” he said, “I wanted your mother to be the first to know, but since you don’t know anything I will tell you.” In his hand he held a piece of paper.
“Do you see this paper?”
“It means the Church is at last out of debt.” He smiled. “So now you really know something!” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 275-6).
President Joseph F. Smith then states:
…we have, by the blessing of the Lord and the faithfulness of the Saints in paying their tithing, been able to pay off our bonded indebtedness. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes not a dollar that it cannot pay at once. At last we are in a position that we can pay as we go. We do not have to borrow any more, and we won’t have to if the Latter-day Saints continue to live their religion and observe this law of tithing. It is the law of revenue to the Church (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 279).
This has not changed today. President Joseph F. Smith also prophesied:
Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God. … That is the true policy, the true purpose of the Lord in the management of the affairs of His Church (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 279).
President Gordon B. Hinckley fulfilled this prophesy when he declared in 1990:
I am thankful that the day has come, at last, when for the Latter-day Saints in the United States and Canada the payment of honest tithes and generous offerings will provide the means for facilities and activities whereby we may worship together, learn together, and socialize together for group and individual benefit.
Years ago I had the opportunity to preside over a stake whose roots reach back a great while. When the first ward was formed in that area, the local people, out of their own meager resources, bought the land and constructed the building without any help from the general funds of the Church. When that building became too small, they constructed a larger one entirely from their own resources.
By the time I came into the presidency of that stake the Church policy provided for matching funds, the Church to put up one dollar for each dollar provided by the local members. Under that formula, we in that area built six new chapels, in addition to providing funds for their maintenance and all of the activity programs carried on in the various wards.
There may have been a few murmurings, but the faith of the people overrode all of these. They gave generously, notwithstanding the stresses of their own circumstances, and the Lord blessed them in a remarkable way. I know of none who went hungry or without shelter. And I know something of the fruit of those homes which have produced a generation and almost a second generation who walk in faith and who have gone across the world and become men and women recognized for their various skills and integrity, as well as for their activity in the Church.
In those days we would have thought the Millennium had come if we had received word that the Church would bear all of the costs of providing land, all of the costs incident to building construction, operation, and maintenance, let alone an activity and administrative budget allowance of forty dollars per year per individual, based on the number who attend sacrament meeting.
It is not the Millennium, but this long hoped-for and prayed-for day has come. Though I have been a party to its inauguration, I still stand in awe at what has happened (Ensign, May 1990, 95).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland added insight to this wonderful time:
I give this brief summary to highlight another miracle, another revelation, if you will, that may have been overlooked by the general membership of the Church. In a way it was intended to be transparent to the public eye. I speak of the decision made by the Brethren just over a decade ago to cease placing any special assessments or other fund-raising obligations upon the members of the Church at home or abroad.
Inasmuch as this decision was made amidst the very international growth I have just described, how could this be done financially? How could we go to more and more distant locations at the very moment we were removing all ancillary assessments from our people? Logic in the situation might have suggested exactly the opposite course of action.
How was it done? I will tell you how it was done—with the wholehearted belief on the part of the presiding Brethren that the Lord’s principles of tithing and freewill offerings would be honored by even the newest member of the Church and that loyalty to such divine principles would see us through.
I was not in the Quorum of the Twelve when that momentous decision was made, but I can imagine the discussions that were held and the act of faith required within the presiding councils of the Church. What if the Brethren were to cease assessments and the Saints did not pay their tithes and offerings, what then? So far as I know, that thought was never seriously entertained. They went forward in faith—faith in God, faith in revealed principle, faith in us. They never looked back. That was a magnificent (if nearly unnoticed) day in the maturing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Ensign, Nov 2001, 33).
President James E. Faust discusses some of the “other donations” mentioned in this section:
The Lord speaks of offerings in the plural. He expects us, as a condition of faithfulness, to pay our tithing and our fast offerings to help the poor and the needy. But we are privileged to make other offerings, not by way of assignment, assessment, or ecclesiastical direction. Among these are donations to the General Missionary Fund, Humanitarian Aid Fund, and the Book of Mormon Fund. We are also privileged to voluntarily contribute to building the new temples President Hinckley has announced (Ensign, Nov 1998, 54).
We Are Blessed When We Give Tithes and Offerings
Concerning the title of this section, President Heber J. Grant proclaimed:
I appeal to the Latter-day Saints to be honest with the Lord and I promise them that peace, prosperity, and financial success will attend those who are honest with our Heavenly Father, because they are fulfilling the law and an obligation. He will bless them for doing so (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 126).
Malachi chapter 3 is quoted in the manual. After quoting Malachi 3:8, President Heber J. Grant stated:
Prosperity comes to those who observe the law of tithing. When I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone. … But what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind.
I am a firm believer that faith without works is dead, and I am a firm believer that the Lord meant what He said when He promised to open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing on us if we would pay our tithing.
…the Lord magnifies those who do pay their tithing and that they are more prosperous, on the average, than the men who do not. I believe that to those who are liberal [with their donations] the Lord gives ideas, and they grow in capacity and ability more rapidly than those that are stingy. I have that faith, and I have had it from the time I was a boy (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 124).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks also referred to Malachi in a conference talk:
Tithing is a commandment with a promise. The words of Malachi, reaffirmed by the Savior, promise those who bring their tithes into the storehouse that the Lord will open “the windows of heaven, and pour [them] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The promised blessings are temporal and spiritual (Ensign, May 1994, 33).
In this section is found the quote, “Verily it is a day of sacrifice…” from D&C 64:23 (p. 188) concerning payment of tithes. While sacrifice is an important law of the gospel, some may get the wrong idea about sacrifice and payment of tithes. President Brigham Young said the following:
Where then is the sacrifice this people have ever made? There is no such thing. They have only exchanged a worse condition for a better one, every time they have been moved; they have exchanged ignorance for knowledge, and inexperience for its opposite (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 160).
Discussion of Malachi 3:10 (quoted earlier on p. 187) will clarify that a “worse condition” certainly is traded for “a better one.”
In this section is also quoted, “Latter-day revelation tells of a blessing for those who tithe: ‘Verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming’” (D&C 64:23). In conference, President Ezra Taft Benson, after quoting this scripture explained further:
The Lord has set loose the angels to reap down the earth (see Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 251), but those who obey the Word of Wisdom along with the other commandments are assured “that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. …” (D&C 89:21) (Ensign, Jan 1974, 68).
This burning is most likely the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming:
For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts
Tithing often doesn’t “work out on paper” That the Lord helps us use 90% of our money more efficiently is the claim of President Grant.
I want to repeat to the Latter-day Saints my firm belief that God our heavenly Father prospers and blesses and gives wisdom to those men and to those women who are strictly honest with him in the payment of their tithing. I believe that when a man is in financial difficulty, the best way to get out of that difficulty (and I speak from personal experience, because I believe that more than once in my life I have been in the financial mud as deep as almost anybody) is to be absolutely honest with the Lord, and never to allow a dollar to come into our hands without the Lord receiving ten per cent of it
If we give in proportion to our means, if we pay our tithing, no matter how small the income, … God our Heavenly Father will magnify the remaining nine dollars out of ten, or the remaining forty-five cents out of every fifty and you will have sufficient wisdom to utilize it to advantage so that you will lose nothing in being honest (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 123-5).
President Gordon B. Hinckley shared a blessing to a young couple who paid their tithing:
As a young man recently returned from his mission, he found the girl he wanted to marry. They were happy, but very poor.
Then came a particularly difficult time when their food and money ran out. It was a Saturday, and the cupboard was literally bare. Rene felt distraught that his young wife was hungry. He decided he had no other choice than to use their tithing money and go purchase food.
As he was leaving the house, his wife stopped him and asked him where he was going. He told her he was going to buy food. She asked him where he got the money. He told her that it was the tithing money. She said, 'That is the Lord's money--you will not use that to buy food.' Her faith was stronger than his. He put the money back, and they went to bed hungry that night.
The next morning they had no breakfast, and they went to church fasting. Rene gave the tithing money to the bishop, but he was too proud to tell the bishop that they were in need.
After the meetings he and his wife left the chapel and started to walk home. They hadn't gone very far when a new member called to them from his house. This man was a fisherman and told them he had more fish than he could use. He wrapped five little fish in a newspaper for them, and they thanked him. As they continued to walk home, they were stopped by another member who gave them tortillas; then someone else stopped them and gave them rice; another member saw them and gave them beans (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 117).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks bore a powerful testimony of tithing he learned from his mother:
During World War II, my widowed mother supported her three young children on a schoolteacher’s salary that was meager. When I became conscious that we went without some desirable things because we didn’t have enough money, I asked my mother why she paid so much of her salary as tithing. I have never forgotten her explanation: “Dallin, there might be some people who can get along without paying tithing, but we can’t. The Lord has chosen to take your father and leave me to raise you children. I cannot do that without the blessings of the Lord, and I obtain those blessings by paying an honest tithing. When I pay my tithing, I have the Lord’s promise that he will bless us, and we must have those blessings if we are to get along.”
Some people say, “I can’t afford to pay tithing.” Those who place their faith in the Lord’s promises say, “I can’t afford not to pay tithing” (Ensign, May 1994, 33).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also told a wonderful story of blessings from tithes:
After she lost her husband in the martyrdom at Nauvoo and made her way west with five fatherless children, Mary Fielding Smith continued in her poverty to pay tithing. When someone at the tithing office inappropriately suggested one day that she should not contribute a tenth of the only potatoes she had been able to raise that year, she cried out to the man, “William, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold His blessings from me. I pay my tithing, not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing it. [I need a blessing.] By keeping this and other laws, I expect to … be able to provide for my family (Ensign, Nov 2001, 33).
Brigham Young warns that we may loose more than blessings if we do not pay tithing:
If we neglect to pay our tithes and offerings we will neglect other things and this will grow upon us until the spirit of the Gospel is entirely gone from us, and we are in the dark, and know not whither we are going (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 158).
President Joseph F. Smith also prophesied:
I have said, and I will repeat it here, that a man or woman who will always pay his or her tithing will never apostatize. It does not make any difference how small or how large it may be; it is a law of the Lord; it is a source of revenue for the Church; it is God’s requirement, and He has said that those who will not observe it are not worthy of an inheritance in Zion. No man will ever apostatize so long as he will pay his tithing. It is reasonable. Why? Because as long as he has faith to pay his tithing he has faith in the Church and in the principles of the Gospel, and there is some good in him, and there is some light in him. As long as he will do this the tempter will not overcome him and will not lead him astray (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 277).
According to President Joseph F. Smith, tithing is a test true disciples must pass:
By this principle (tithing) the loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to the test. By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. By this principle it shall be seen whose hearts are set on doing the will of God and keeping his commandments, thereby sanctifying the land of Zion unto God, and who are opposed to this principle and have cut themselves off from the blessings of Zion. There is a great deal of importance connected with this principle, for by it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful. In this respect it is as essential as faith in God, as repentance of sin, as baptism for the remission of sin, or as the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The law of tithing is a test by which the people as individuals shall be proved (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 276).
President Grant proclaimed:
…men that are honest with the Lord in the payment of their tithing grow as men never grow that are not honest (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 124).
Perhaps one of the greatest blessings which comes from paying tithing is the privilege to attend the temple. Elder Robert D. Hales shared a powerful quote from Brigham Young concerning this:
Just over three months after the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, at the time the Saints were building the Nauvoo Temple, Brigham Young wrote on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Enter steadily and regularly upon a strict observance of the law of tithing, . . . : then come up to the House of the Lord, and be taught in his ways, and walk in his paths” (Ensign, Nov. 202, 26).