Doctrine and Covenants 119-120: The Law of Tithing

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 135–137

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained how the law of tithing was introduced in this dispensation: “The Lord had given to the Church the law of consecration and had called upon the members … to enter into a covenant that could not be broken and to be everlasting in which they were to consecrate their properties and receive stewardships, for this is the law of the celestial kingdom. Many of those who entered into this solemn covenant broke it and by so doing brought upon their heads, and the heads of their brethren and sisters, dire punishment and persecution. This celestial law of necessity was thereupon withdrawn for the time, or until the time of the redemption of Zion. While suffering intensely because of their debts and lack of means to meet their obligations Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, November 29, 1834, in solemn prayer promised the Lord that they would give one tenth of all that the Lord should give unto them, as an offering to be bestowed upon the poor; they also prayed that their children, and the children’s children after them should obey this law. (D.H.C., 2:174–5.) Now, however, it became necessary for the law to be given to the whole Church so theProphet prayed for instruction” (Church History and Modern Revelation,2:90–91.) The answer they received is found inDoctrine and Covenants 119. Doctrine and Covenants 120helps explain how the tithes of the Church are handled. As you study these two revelations, look for what an honest tithe is and how we are blessed by paying tithing.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 119

Supplication(section heading)Humble and sincere prayer 
Statutes(v. 6)Laws, commandments 
Ensample(v. 7)Example 

Doctrine and Covenants 119:1–3—“The Beginning of the Tithing of My People”

Elder Marion G. Romney, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained how the law of tithing prepares us to live the law of consecration:

“The principles underlying the United Order are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses into the bishop’s storehouse. When the law of tithing was instituted four years after the United Order experiment was suspended, the Lord required the people to put ‘all their surplus property … into the hands of the bishop’ (D&C 119:1); thereafter they were to ‘pay one-tenth of all their interest annually. …’ (D&C 119:4.) This law, still in force, implements to a degree at least the United Order principle of stewardships, for it leaves in the hands of each person the ownership and management of the property from which he produces the needs of himself and family. Furthermore, to use again the words of President [J. Reuben] Clark:

“‘… in lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the United Order, we, today, have our fast offerings, our Welfare donations, and our tithing, all of which may be devoted to the care of the poor, as well as for the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 100).

Doctrine and Covenants 119:4—What Is “One-Tenth of All Their Interest Annually”

President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, explained: “The law of tithing is simple: we pay one-tenth of our individual increase annually [D&C 119:4]. Increase has been interpreted by the First Presidency to mean income [General Handbook of Instructions(1989), sec. 9, p. 1]. What amounts to 10 percent of our individual income is between each of us and our Maker. There are no legalistic rules” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 73; orEnsign,Nov. 1998, 59).

Doctrine and Covenants 119:6—The Promises of Paying an Honest Tithe

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

“Some people say, ‘I can’t afford to pay tithing.’ Those who place their faith in the Lord’s promises say, ‘I can’t afford not to pay tithing.’ …

“Tithing is a commandment with a promise. The words of Malachi, reaffirmed by the Savior, promise those who bring their tithes into the storehouse that the Lord will open ‘the windows of heaven, and pour [them] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.’ The promised blessings are temporal and spiritual. The Lord promises to ‘rebuke the devourer,’ and he also promises tithe payers that ‘all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome land’ (3 Nephi 24:10–12; alsoMalachi 3:10–12). …

“The payment of tithing also brings the individual tithe payer unique spiritual blessings. Tithe paying is evidence that we accept the law of sacrifice. It also prepares us for the law of consecration and the other higher laws of the celestial kingdom” (in Conference Report, April 1994, 44–45; orEnsign,May 1994, 34).

Doctrine and Covenants 120

Disposed(v. 1)Spent, managed 
Composed(v. 1)Made up of 

Doctrine and Covenants 120:1—“Disposed of by a Council”

President J. Reuben Clark, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, explained how tithing is managed:

“Under the direction of the First Presidency a budget is drawn up … , which includes all of the proposed expenditures of the tithing. This budget is the result of the careful consideration of the departments which are responsible for the expenditure of the funds.

“This budget is then taken before the Council on the Expenditure of the Tithing [today it is called the Committee for the Disposition of Tithes], composed, as the revelation provides, of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric. This council considers and discusses the budget so submitted, approving or disapproving, as the case may be, individual items, but finally passing the budget.

“… None of [the tithing] is expended except upon the approval and authorization of this committee” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1943, 12).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 119.

Activity A iconWhy Tithing?

  1. 1.

    From your reading ofDoctrine and Covenants 119–20, the “Understanding the Scriptures” section, and what you have learned from your parents, teachers, and Church leaders, list what the tithes of the Church are used for.

  2. 2.

    Explain who decides how the tithing is spent.

  3. 3.

    Make a second list of blessings that come from paying an honest tithing.