From the Life of John Taylor
John Taylor believed that God provides for our temporal needs in addition to our spiritual blessings. He therefore encouraged the Saints to seek and acknowledge the hand of God in temporal affairs, teaching that “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.”2
While recognizing the importance of temporal matters for the sustenance of life, President Taylor also maintained a proper perspective regarding the things of the world. Concerning President Taylor’s view of temporal wealth, Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy wrote: “He never devoted himself to money getting. … Yet the amount of property he accumulated at Nauvoo, and which he sacrificed in order to flee into the wilderness with the Church of Christ, is sufficient to prove that he was not without financial ability. But he had his eyes and heart fixed upon the better riches, those which moth and rust could not corrupt, neither mobs break through nor steal [see Matthew 6:19–20]. These things filled his soul, engrossed his attention and left but a small margin of time to him in which to fall in love with the wealth of this world. His motto was—’Money is of little importance where truth is concerned.’”3
To President Taylor, observing the law of tithing was an important part of fulfilling his temporal responsibilities and acknowledging God’s hand in all blessings. In a time when most tithing was paid in kind rather than with money, he taught his children the importance of giving only the best to the Lord in appreciation for all that they had received. “When gathering the fruit in the fall,” his 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.’”4
Teachings of John Taylor
We are indebted to God for all that we have.
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.5
[Jesus said], “Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” [See Matthew 6:28–29.] Again, says he, reflect upon the fowls of the air, they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father takes care of them, and will he not also take care of you, O ye of little faith? [See Matthew 6:26.] …
If we have life, or health, or possessions; if we have children, and friends and homes, if we have the light of truth, the blessings of the everlasting gospel, the revelations of God, the holy priesthood, with all its blessings and government and rule, all these and every true enjoyment that we possess come from God. We do not always realize this, but it is nevertheless true that to God we are indebted for every good and perfect gift [see James 1:17]. He organized our bodies as they exist in all their perfection, symmetry and beauty. He, as the poet has expressed it,
He is merciful and kind and benevolent towards all his creatures, and it is well for us to reflect upon these things sometimes, for we thus realize our dependence upon the Almighty.
In speaking of the affairs of this world, it is often asked by many—“Why, should we not attend to them?” Of course we should. Do we not talk of building up Zion? Of course we do. Do we not talk of building cities and of making beautiful habitations, gardens and orchards, and placing ourselves in such a position that we and our families can enjoy the blessings of life? Of course we do. God has given us the land and all the necessary elements for this purpose, and he has given us intelligence to use them. But the great thing he has had in view is, that whilst we use the intelligence that he gives us for the accomplishment of the various objects that are desirable for our well being and happiness, we should not forget him who is the source of all our blessings, whether pertaining to the present or the future.6
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, and in his hands, and all nations are in his hands, and he will do with us and with them as seemeth him good. And as a kind, wise Father, he will watch over their interests; and when the time of judgment comes, it will not be withheld. We ought always to remember that our strength is in God; we have nothing to boast of ourselves, we have no intelligence that God has not given unto us; we have nothing in life, or property, but what has been given unto us of the Lord. Everything we possess pertaining to time and eternity has been imparted to us by him.7
All that we possess is the gift of God. We should acknowledge him in all things. We sometimes talk about men having this right and the other right. We have no rights, only such as God gives us. And I will tell you what he will show to the Latter-day Saints. He will yet prove to them that the gold and the silver are his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, and that he gives to whom he will, and withholds from whom he pleases. He will yet show you this is a matter of fact. Our safety and happiness and our wealth depend upon our obedience to God and his laws, and our exaltation in time and eternity depends upon the same thing.8
Understanding our temporal blessings and responsibilities is part of the gospel.
I am pleased to talk about the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and also about other matters that some think are not so directly associated with the Kingdom of God, and yet they are; for all things temporal and all things spiritual, all things that are associated with our bodies and with our spirits, everything that is calculated to promote our happiness and well-being on the earth and to procure for us an exaltation in the kingdom of heaven, are things that are associated with the Gospel and that belong to us as Latter-day Saints.9
The object of our meeting is not altogether for religious purposes, but to consult upon all matters for the interest of the church and kingdom of God upon the earth. … We meet also to consult upon the best course for us to pursue with regard to temporal things as well as spiritual things; for as we possess bodies as well as spirits, and have to live by eating, drinking, and wearing, it becomes necessary that temporal matters should be considered and discussed in our conferences, and that we should deliberate upon all things that are calculated to benefit, bless, and exalt the Saints of God, whether they refer to our spiritual affairs or to our avocations and duties in life as husbands and wives, as parents and children, as masters and servants. … The idea of strictly religious feelings with us, and nothing else, is out of the question; yet we do everything in the fear of God. Our religion is more comprehensive than that of the world; it does not prompt its [members] with the desire to “sit and sing themselves away to everlasting bliss,” but it embraces all the interests of humanity in every conceivable phase, and every truth in the world comes within its scope.10
The Lord is anxious to do us good, to enlighten our minds, to inform our judgment, to unfold unto us His will, and to strengthen us and prepare us for the great events that must transpire in these last days. He is desirous to show us how to save ourselves, how to bless ourselves temporally and spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically, politically and in every possible way that He is capable of bestowing His blessings upon fallen humanity.11
Through tithing, we acknowledge God, show our faithfulness, and prepare for greater blessings.
We as a people acknowledge that the law of tithing emanates from the Lord; then how is it that we need talking to so much in relation to it. If we are not honest with ourselves, and honest with our God, of what good to us are all our professions of being representatives of God, of being elders in Israel, of being clothed with the holy priesthood, of being teachers of the ways of life. The ancient Jews, the old Pharisees with all their wickedness and corruption, could boast of paying tithes of all they possessed. We profess to be better than the old Pharisees, and yet it seems that it is very difficult for men among us to be honest with themselves and with their God in relation to so simple a principle as this is. …
[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].12
[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.] …
We are talking about building up Zion. Here is where the thing applies itself with great force to me as well as to you, when you comprehend it as it exists and see it by the light of the Spirit of Truth. For it is written: “And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.” [D&C 119:6.] Well, we are talking about building up the land of Zion, which is one of the things we are here for. And God has said that if we do not obey this law, it shall not be a land of Zion unto us. …
[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. …
These temporal matters [some] assume are of very little importance, they are of very little importance judging from the way that many of us labor; but they are of very great importance when weighed in the balances of truth, the principles of eternal life which God has revealed are of the utmost importance to the Saints, both to the living and the dead, to the myriads of men that have lived and that may live, these things are of vast importance. …
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. And what we do possess of this world’s goods is given unto us to make a wise use of, because we cannot take them with us when we shall be called hence. It is for us, as Saints of the Most High, to be honest and upright and take a correct course, to be full of integrity and maintain correct principles everywhere and at all times.13
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
What are some of the temporal blessings that God has given to us? Why is it important to recognize that all these blessings come as gifts from God? What causes some people to forget that God is the source of these blessings?
What is the relationship between our use of earthly possessions and our spiritual well-being? (See also D&C 104:13–18.) How can we make better use of the blessings that God has given us?
How does paying tithing show our love and gratitude to the Lord? How can we cultivate a feeling of thanksgiving when we give tithes and offerings?
What can you do to teach your children and grandchildren to pay an honest tithing?
Why is it sometimes a challenge to pay tithing? What can we do to overcome that challenge?
Why is it important to pay tithing even though we may still struggle financially all our lives? What spiritual or temporal blessings have you received from being obedient to the law of tithing?
The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham (1943), 265.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 11 Feb. 1879, 1.
B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (1963), 424–25.
“Stories and Counsel of Prest. Taylor,” Young Woman’s Journal, May 1905, 218; paragraphing altered.
Deseret News (Weekly), 1 Jan. 1873, 728.
Deseret News (Weekly), 15 Jan. 1873, 760.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1880, 103.
The Gospel Kingdom, 248.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 21 Aug. 1883, 1.
The Gospel Kingdom, 168.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 19 Nov. 1865, 2.
The Gospel Kingdom, 264–65; paragraphing altered.
Deseret News (Weekly), 8 Mar. 1881, 1; paragraphing altered.