Lessons from the Old Testament: My Father’s Last Words


One of the greatest blessings of my life was being able to serve a full-time mission. It was a wonderful event for the whole family, since I was the oldest of three brothers. My parents were converts to the Church and had been baptized when I was four years old, thanks to two fine missionaries who knocked on the door of their home in Bernal, a suburb south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a result, my parents always hoped their children would likewise help people find the religion that had made them so happy.

Things were going wonderfully as the first year of my mission went by. Then, when I was serving in Córdoba, Argentina, I received some sad news from home: my father was very ill. He had recently undergone surgery, and the doctors had found that his illness was much advanced, in the terminal stage.

The mission president decided that I should go home, visit my father, and return to the mission field the next day. So I went home and found my father on the verge of death, most of the time unconscious and immobile. I spent most of my time at his bedside. Those were hours of sorrow, of peace, and of the abundant companionship of the Spirit. All my thoughts were centered on the Lord and His great plan.

At some point my father regained consciousness. He looked at me but did not recognize me. However, as I began to express how much I loved him and how grateful I was to be his son, he realized he was listening to his eldest child, the missionary. Tears started to roll down his cheeks, and making great effort to communicate, he said, “Your mother is a saintly woman; she is our example.” Then I clearly heard these words from his lips: “Even if you don’t have anything to eat, always pay your tithing.”

He did not say much more. I wrote down his words in my journal, left the house, and returned to the mission field. A few hours later my father passed away.

With the passage of time, as I began my own family and watched my children grow up, this experience with my father came to my mind. As I pondered the significance of life and death, I thought, “What last words of counsel would I leave my children if I knew the time had come to leave this world?” I could not think of anything better than the counsel I had received from my father: “Even if you don’t have anything to eat, always pay your tithing.”

The law of tithing is a great blessing to our family. I have learned that the Lord does not need my tithing; rather, I am the one who needs the blessings that come from obeying this law.

I have also learned that it does not matter if our donation envelope is bulging or if it contains just a few coins. We have met our obligation to the Lord if our tithing is 10 percent of our income. As we pay our tithing we become partners with the Lord. We take a stand in favor of building temples, in which all the ordinances of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are made available to families. We take a stand in favor of building meetinghouses, where we can attend each Sunday with our families and partake of the sacrament if worthy. We take a stand in favor of helping missionary work reach the ends of the earth. And finally, we take a stand in favor of having the Church “stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14).

I consider the law of tithing a law of protection for my home and the most important principle in the sound financial management of our family’s resources.

Church members who understand the principle of tithing know that it is not primarily about money; it is about faith. Let us have faith in the promises of the Lord, who declared, “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” (Malachi 3:10).

[illustration] Illustration by Jeff Ward

Elder Jorge Luis del Castillo served as an Area Seventy from 1997 to 2005.