Viewpoint: Follow the Divine Law of Tithing
Contributed By the Church News
“The honest payment of tithing provides a person the inner strength and commitment to comply with the other commandments.” —President Thomas S. Monson
Years ago, a grandson of Howard W. Hunter, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later President of the Church, attended tithing settlement with his father.
“The bishop indicated his pleasure in the young lad’s wanting to pay a full tithing and asked him if he thought the gospel was true. This 7-year-old boy, having paid a full tithe of fourteen cents, said he guessed the gospel was true, ‘but it sure costs a lot of money’” (David B. Haight, “The Responsibility of Young Aaronic Priesthood Bearers,” Apr. 1981 general conference).
The Lord requires one-tenth of what we earn. In the conference address referenced above, Elder Haight directed members to pay their tithing monthly “as you are paid. Never be in debt to the Lord. Spiritual and temporal blessings will be yours as you carefully honor this commandment.”
We hear talks, and perhaps have given a few ourselves, about the blessings that come from obeying the law of tithing. However, we should take care lest we convey unintended messages. Blessings from God don’t always come immediately—or in the form we expect.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “The honest payment of tithing provides a person the inner strength and commitment to comply with the other commandments.”
He quoted Malachi 3:10, in which the Lord promises to “pour … out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
President Monson added, “All of us can afford to pay tithing. In reality, none of us can afford not to pay tithing. The Lord will strengthen our resolve. He will open a way to comply” (“Be Thou an Example,” Oct. 1996 general conference).
An example of a faithful payer of tithes is Mary Fielding Smith, widow of Hyrum Smith and mother of Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church, who took the best of her potato crop to the tithing office in Salt Lake City. Knowing of her poverty, a tithing clerk suggested that she not contribute a tenth of her crop. She responded, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Would you deny me a blessing? … I pay my tithing, not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing it” (Joseph F. Smith, Apr. 1900 general conference).
As we study the scriptures, we can see the difference between merely living the letter of the law and abiding by the spirit of the law.
As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Hunter said: “The principle of tithing should be more than a mathematical, mechanical compliance with the law. The Lord condemned the Pharisees for mechanically tithing herbs without coming into the circumference of spirituality. If we pay our tithes because of our love for the Lord, in complete freedom and faith, we narrow our distance from Him and our relationship to Him becomes intimate. We are released from the bondage of legalism, and we are touched by the Spirit and feel a oneness with God” (April 1964 general conference).
Obedience to the divine law of tithing is a measure of faith, not wealth. For the most part, it has little to do with money.
We sometimes hear of people for whom keeping the law of tithing has been a trial of faith. One account centers on a husband and wife from Germany who immigrated to Canada and eventually made their way to Texas, where they learned of the gospel of Jesus Christ and joined the Church. They committed themselves to keeping all of the Lord’s commandments, but they faced a challenge when it came to paying tithing.
“The first mention of tithing shocked me,” said the husband. “I didn’t make much money, but I made up my mind that the Lord would take care of us if we would keep His commandments.”
His wife said, “I remember sitting on the bed, because that was the only furniture we had to sit on, and counting pennies to buy groceries. I couldn’t see why we had to give 10 percent to the Lord when we had so little money in the beginning. But [my husband] said to do it, and to have faith.”
The couple exercised faith and paid an honest tithing. Years later, they testified that they had been blessed (Church News, Aug. 3, 1974).
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the reason for paying tithing: “The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on [the Lord’s] work. The blessing to the giver is an ancillary return, and that blessing may not always be in the form of financial and material benefit. There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world” (“Tithing: An Opportunity to Prove Our Faithfulness,” Apr. 1982 general conference).
Paying our tithes—as well as other offerings—is one of the greatest privileges we have as Latter-day Saints. One of the uses the Church makes of tithing is the building of temples. There are 149 temples that have been dedicated (soon 150 with the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple on March 20), 14 under construction, and 9 announced.
Paying our tithing brings us into a special kind of financial partnership with the Lord. Our monetary contributions, added to our labors, help build and sustain His kingdom on earth.