Tithing is an important test of our personal righteousness. President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) said: “By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. … By it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 276).
The question is, to whom is our faithfulness to be known? First, we must be satisfied in our own hearts that we have paid an honest tithe. It is important that we have the confirmation of the Spirit in this matter.
It is also important that we declare our tithing faithfulness to our bishop or branch president. We are asked to make this declaration during tithing settlement—an individual or family interview with the bishop or branch president during December each year. There are several important reasons why.
Declaration of tithing status. It is an eternal principle that we are accountable for what we have been given by God: our time, talents, and means. We know that we shall be “judged out of those things which [are] written in the books, according to [our] works” (Rev. 20:12; see also 3 Ne. 27:26). At the end of the year, the bishop or branch president is asked to indicate on the records of the Church the tithing status of each member in his unit. It is our privilege to exercise our accountability by declaring for him our own tithing status.
A time to show our obedience. Tithing settlement allows us the chance to demonstrate our obedience to the Lord. In addition, parents can use tithing settlement as a teaching tool. A family home evening would be a good time to talk about how the Church uses tithing and to help children prepare their own records for this meeting with the bishop. Children who hear their parents declare that they pay a full tithing gain the knowledge that paying tithing is important to their parents and should be important to the children as well.
An audit of our personal records. If we have not taken time to review our records of contributions to the Church, how do we know they are correct? A few years ago, at our year-end review of our contributions, my wife and I discovered that a check for tithing we thought we had written in July had never been given to the Church. We corrected that error immediately.
An audit of the Church records. Every April in general conference, the chairman of the Church Audit Committee stands and says that, based on a review of Church procedures and audit reports, the members of the audit committee are “of the opinion that … Church contributions received and expended during the [previous] year … have been managed in accordance with revelation and established Church policies and procedures” (“The Church Audit Committee Report,” Liahona, July 2000, 26). An important part of those audit procedures is to have us check whether our personal records match the Church’s records. We can check whether our contributions were properly distributed in the categories we selected on our donation slips.
Some people have wondered whether it is necessary to wait until the last day of the year to be sure all income is properly reported. The answer is no. The spirit of tithing settlement is just as easily served on 1 December as on the 31st. We can continue to pay donations after tithing settlement, and the ward clerk will prepare for our review and our personal financial records a final report of contributions as of 31 December.
A time for commitment. What if someone is not a full-tithe payer? What if someone hasn’t paid any tithes or offerings? The interview with the bishop or branch president can be the beginning of repentance, a time to commit to begin or to do better. Everyone who commits to sacrifice as the Lord has commanded will receive spiritual strength and experience personal growth by keeping this resolve.
After commanding His people to pay tithes, the Lord promised to “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; see Mal. 3:8–12). Those who have seen the fulfillment of this promise can testify that the blessings are often more spiritual than financial. When the Lord opens “the windows of heaven,” He pours out blessings suited to His children’s individual needs.
As a bishop, I saw how rich these blessings can be. Great are the blessings that come to those who faithfully pay tithing and to those who faithfully attend tithing settlement.