The 45-Year Tithing Account
When President Richard Winder of the Czechoslovakia Prague Mission handed me a letter addressed simply to the “Mormon Mission,” I noticed that it was postmarked in Ceska Trebova, a small Czech railroad town where I had served as a young missionary in 1948. Forty-five years later, I was again serving in Czechoslovakia, this time with my wife in Bohemia.
The name Ceska Trebova brought to my mind Sister Lukasova, the town’s sole member in earlier years. In 1948 she had requested that missionaries come to her area. My companion and I tracted in Ceska Trebova for many weeks, and Sister Lukasova helped us arrange several low-key gatherings. When the police disrupted one of our meetings and subjected us to intense questioning, the mission president called us back to Prague. Sister Lukasova’s contact with the Church was cut off.
Reflecting that she had probably passed away by now, I turned my attention to the letter. It translated as follows:
“My aunt has been a member of your church since 1930. She is now eighty-seven and is not in good health. She has had no contact with your church since two missionaries were here in 1948, an Elder Glauser and an Elder Hill. May I please ask that you send someone to see her? She would appreciate it so much.”
When I finished reading, President Winder met my gaze and said, “I thought this letter would mean something to you.”
Two young elders accompanied us to Ceska Trebova. Wearing a bright pinafore, Sister Lukasova sat with quiet dignity on an old, overstuffed chair in her modest home. Her eyebrows still showed traces of raven, and her black eyes shone with mirth, kindness, and deep understanding. In her beauty and serenity, we sensed strength that belied her age.
We exchanged hugs and then discussed ideas and memories for a long time. Sister Lukasova still had photos of me from forty-five years ago. At a certain point, she asked her niece to go get something. The niece returned with a small booklet, which Sister Lukasova handed to me, saying, “Here. Take this. It belongs to the Lord.”
I saw that the book was a savings passbook. “It is my tithe,” Sister Lukasova said.
Turning the pages, I marvelled at the columns of monthly deposits going back to 1948. This savings account represented nearly five decades of faithful obedience through illness, loneliness, and uncertainty. With nothing to sustain her but her own testimony and the Spirit, Sister Lukasova had kept her baptismal covenant to pay tithing.
We held a sacrament service for her and listened to her fervent testimony, then made plans to return soon. Recently, Sister Lukasova took out her endowments at the Freiberg Germany Temple. She continues to lay up treasures that will bless her life forever.
Flooded with Blessings
I admire people who stand up in testimony meeting and bear witness of the blessings that come from paying tithing. My husband and I have always paid our tithing, but until a few months ago we would just forget about it as soon as we’d mailed the check to our bishop.
Recently, however, I learned the importance of tithing when my husband, Victor, lost his job. My income was sufficient to buy our food but not to pay our mortgage. When Victor handed me his severance pay, I hesitated to pay tithing on it. What if Victor couldn’t get another job right away? Where would we live if we couldn’t keep up with our mortgage payments?
For the first time in my life, I needed confirmation that paying tithing was the right thing to do. I reviewed 3 Ne. 24:8–12: “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” (3 Ne. 24:10). Then I turned to D&C 82:10: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
After much prayer and soul searching, I paid the tithing on Victor’s severance pay. Upon inquiring, we were happy to learn that we had six months of breathing room on our mortgage. Getting a new job, however, proved difficult. As Victor traveled the length and breadth of South Africa’s Transvaal Province, he was told that he was too old, or too qualified, or too well paid, or that he had the wrong background.
Finally, a placement agency scheduled him for an interview at a large mining company. On the day of his visit, the company put Victor through a grueling series of allergy tests in addition to all the usual screening requirements. I fasted and prayed all that day long.
Two days later, he was offered the job. When we drove down to sign the employment papers, the company showed us a lovely home that was included in the compensation package.
Sometimes it is tempting to stop paying tithing when our financial circumstances worsen. But I have learned that during difficult seasons we must keep honoring our covenants and follow a righteous course. By enduring in paying our tithes, Victor and I survived adversity and were flooded with more blessings than we had ever received before.
We Paid the Lord First
When my grandfather Robert Hazen went on his mission to England, he left behind a family of eight children. Grandpa’s carpentry had always provided for his growing family’s needs, but without him Grandma Etta and the children had to struggle to meet their expenses.
Of the children, only Mamie—who later became my mother—and her sisters, Ivy and Edna, were old enough to go to work. Every week they brought home their scant wages and planned with Grandma how to best spend them.
One night at the kitchen table, Grandma puzzled over the budget with her three oldest daughters. The money wasn’t stretching far enough! The rent was due, and they had no more flour in the house. No matter how they arranged the budget, they could barely afford to pay for food and shelter. But what about the family’s obligation to the Lord?
“Girls,” Grandma finally said, “after rent we have enough to either pay our tithing or buy a sack of flour. The little ones will be hungry. What should we do?”
“Pay the tithing, Ma,” Mamie whispered. “The Lord will provide.”
The next morning Grandma put on her shawl and walked a mile to the bishop’s house to pay the family’s tithing. When she returned home, she was surprised to see a big box on the front porch. It was full of groceries, including a sack of flour.
“Children, come quickly!” she called. As Grandma peered into the box, she noticed a note tucked inside. The children gathered around as Grandma read aloud.
“Sister Hazen,” the note began, “during the night I remembered that Robert did some carpentry for me before he went to England. I never paid him for that work.” Grandma’s voice faltered as she continued, “Perhaps groceries would help more than money.” The note was signed by a friend who owned a grocery store across town.
The sweet testimony my mother, Mamie, bore about this experience gave me a deep respect for the principle of tithing. Through her example and my own experiences, I have come to know that the Lord meant it when he said, “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” (Mal. 3:10).
Father’s Tithing Labor
In the early days of the Church in Utah, many children grew up in agricultural economies without ever seeing cash. The tithing yards of the Church allowed the Saints to meet their obligations to the Lord in the currency they best understood: wheat, chickens, flour, hay, molasses, horses, potatoes, canned fruit, butter, cattle, eggs—in short, anything grown or produced in their own farms and homes. Sometimes even physical labor was accepted: many roads and the Church’s telegraph line were built with tithing labor.
One year our family was quite destitute. We had no potatoes or wheat or anything else to donate. So my father went to the tithing yard empty-handed but open-eyed. He noticed that the yard’s barn door hinges were loose, the back fence was out of line, and the windows of the office needed puttying and painting. With a list of suggested tithing yard repairs in hand, he went to his bishop and offered his labor as payment of his tithing.
The bishop accepted my father’s donation of labor, and my father worked many hours to complete the tasks he had volunteered to do. In this way, my family was able to keep our covenants and continue receiving the blessings of faithful tithe paying.
Because today’s economic systems allow members to pay their tithing via cash or check, the old tithing yards have been closed. No matter how we contribute, though, we are blessed when we help build the Lord’s kingdom with our tithes.
The Sweet Reward of Sacrifice
Sometimes the Lord asks for offerings that seem beyond 10 percent of our annual income. When World War II created a shortage of missionaries in Hawaii, the mission president called local sugarcane farmer Andrew Kamauoha to serve a six-month mission. Brother Kamauoha declined. Ever since the deaths of his wife and father, he had been solely responsible not only for eighteen acres of land but also for his children and his mother. Besides, the sugar cane harvest was approaching.
The mission president asked Brother Kamauoha a second time. Together, the family decided that if he served the Lord, the Lord would take care of the family and farm.
Brother Kamauoha sold his 1946 Ford for six hundred dollars. He bought two suits and a few other necessities, and gave the rest of the money to his mother. After admonishing his children to help their grandmother, he left for the Oahu mission.
At the end of Brother Kamauoha’s six months in Oahu, the mission president asked him to work for six months in Hanalei, which he agreed to do. He then worked another six months in Hanalei. His proselyting became so effective that the Hanalei Branch pledged financial support if he would stay another six months, but both the mission president and Brother Kamauoha knew that he needed to go home after eighteen months of missionary service. He needed to take care of his mother, children, and farm.
When he returned, he found them not only safe but prosperous. The sugarcane harvest had yielded more money than ever before in the family’s thirty-four years of farming. When the neighbors asked Brother Kamauoha’s mother how it was possible, she testified that the Lord blessed the farm because she paid her tithing and because her son served a mission despite his other responsibilities. The family reaped not only a plentiful earthly harvest but also a spiritual bounty of increased faith and dedication.