When our daughter was young, each Sunday my wife and I noticed the children in our ward line up at the ward clerk’s office to give their tithing—usually just pennies—to a member of the bishopric, who then praised each child. By the time our daughter was three years old, she eagerly paid her tithing.
As parents, we exemplified this behavior by paying our own tithing, and we reinforced it through gospel discussions. In the process, we learned three lessons about teaching children to pay tithing.
• Teach through precept and example. Children can learn much about tithing by attending Primary, but their most important teachers are their parents.
“Teaching is done by precept and example, and by word and deed,” President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) said. “A good model is the best teacher. Therefore, a [parent’s] first responsibility is to set the proper example” (“Worthy Fathers, Worthy Sons,” Ensign, November 1985, 35).
Lessons about tithing from the lives of parents, relatives, and Church leaders teach and reinforce the principle of paying tithing. Parents can supplement their teaching with lessons in the Family Home Evening Resource Book (item number 31106), and they can improve their efforts by incorporating teaching tips found in Teaching—No Greater Call (item number 36123). In addition, songs and hymns can reinforce the importance of paying tithing.
Asking children to give short lessons on tithing during family home evening further reinforces precepts. Repetition is essential, especially for young children.
• Teach through praise and encouragement. We should generously praise our children as they attempt to live the precepts they are learning, regardless of their level of understanding.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I will always be grateful for a father and a mother who, as far back as I can remember, taught us to pay our tithing. … We never felt that it was a sacrifice to pay our tithing. We felt it was an obligation, that even as small children we were doing our duty as the Lord had outlined that duty, and that we were assisting his church in the great work it had to accomplish” (“The Sacred Law of Tithing,” Tambuli, May 1991, 4).
When children attend tithing settlement with their parents, they come to sense the importance of living the law of tithing. A formal visit with their bishop or branch president can help young people resolve to become and remain faithful tithe payers. In addition, a priesthood leader’s encouragement can nurture faith and spark respect for priesthood authority.
• Teach through the Spirit. When children gain knowledge through the Spirit, their willing obedience increases. Children, regardless of age, can be touched by the Spirit as they pray about the law of tithing and as their parents bear testimony of it.
Older children are capable of understanding that construction and maintenance of temples and chapels, printing and distribution of Church materials, and funding of worldwide missionary efforts are an extension of tithe payers’ faith. But with increased maturity and understanding comes increased temptation, including the temptation of materialism. For this reason, youth must be taught to recognize and respond to the guiding influence of the Spirit, which “will show unto [them] all things what [they] should do” (2 Ne. 32:5).
As parents faithfully and consistently teach their children about tithing, they will help their children receive a testimony of a divine law that will bless them throughout their lives.
“A Test of Priorities”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about teaching his children to pay tithing:
“My grandparents … taught me about tithing with examples of one egg or one bushel of peaches out of ten. Years later I used those same kinds of examples to try to teach the principles of tithing to our own children.
“Parents are always looking for better ways to teach, and the results of their efforts are sometimes unexpected. Attempting to teach tithing to our young son, I explained the principle of a tenth. … When I finished what I was sure was a clear explanation, I wanted to test whether our seven-year-old had understood. I asked him to imagine that he was a farmer with a harvest of eggs and young animals. I supplied the figures and then asked our little boy what he would give to the bishop as tithing. He thought deeply for a moment and then said, ‘I would give him a very old horse.’
“We obviously had some further conversations on the principle of tithing, and I am proud of the way he and his brother and sisters learned and practiced that principle. But I have often thought of that little boy’s words as I have observed how some adult Church members relate to the law of tithing. I think we still have some whose attitude and performance consist of giving the bishop something like ‘a very old horse.’
“The payment of tithing is a test of priorities” (“Tithing,” Ensign, May 1994, 35).