The purpose of this lesson is to help us more fully appreciate and better live the law of tithing. This lesson should also help us understand the value of other Church offerings and the need for generous contributions.
The law of tithing is a commandment from the Lord—a plan whereby we give back to Him a small part of what He has given us. When we were baptized, we made a covenant to obey all of the Lord’s commandments. Each time we partake of the sacrament, we renew our promise to the Lord. In obeying the commandment to pay our tithing, we keep one part of our promise.
Display visual 6-a, “Your earnings.”
What is a full or honest tithe?
The First Presidency wrote: “The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this” (First Presidency letter, 19 Mar. 1970; see also D&C 119:4).
Members give their tithing and a completed Tithing and Other Offerings slip to a member of the bishopric or branch presidency. If there is no organized ward or branch, tithing is given to the district, stake, or mission president. Records of all contributions are kept by priesthood brethren called as clerks.
At the end of each year all members are asked to make a special appointment with the bishop or branch president. At this meeting, known as tithing settlement, we speak to him privately and review our contribution records. We have the opportunity to declare our status as tithe payers. If we do not live in an organized ward or branch, we meet with the district, stake, or mission president for tithing settlement.
Obedience and honesty in paying tithing are necessary for obtaining a recommend from priesthood leaders to go to the temple. The payment of an honest tithe is an important commandment that all Latter-day Saints should keep.
Elder Bernard Brockbank told how he was encouraged to obey the law of tithing:
“A few years ago when my wife and I were involved with a young family, we were struggling to meet our financial needs, … and we were not honest in our payment of tithes and offerings. We were attending church and I thought that we loved the Lord, but one day my wife said to me, ‘Do you love God?’ and I answered, ‘Yes.’
“She said, ‘Do you love God as much as you love the grocer?’
“I replied, ‘I hope that I love him more than the grocer.’
“She said, ‘But you paid the grocer. Do you love God as much as the landlord? You paid him, didn’t you?’ She then said, ‘The first and great commandment is to love God, and you know we have not paid our tithing.’
“We repented and paid our tithes and offerings, and the Lord opened the windows of heaven and poured out blessings upon us. We consider it a great privilege to pay tithes and offerings to the Lord.
“I would like to mention that when we were not honest with the Lord, we were disturbed and had difficulties and problems” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 113–14; or Ensign, June 1971, 86).
The Lord promises spiritual and temporal blessings to those who are obedient to the law of tithing. The scriptures tell us, “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; see also Malachi 3:11–12).
What does the Lord promise us if we pay our tithing?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:23. What is another blessing that we can expect when we have paid a full tithing?
President Joseph F. Smith told how his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, obeyed the Lord’s commandment to pay an honest tithing, bringing blessings to her family:
“I recollect most vividly a circumstance that occurred in the days of my childhood. My mother was a widow, with a large family to provide for. One spring when we opened our potato pits, she had her boys get a load of the best potatoes and she took them to the tithing office; potatoes were scarce that season. I was a little boy at the time, and drove the team. When we drove up to the steps of the tithing office, ready to unload the potatoes, one of the clerks came out and said to my mother, ‘Widow Smith, it’s a shame that you should have to pay tithing.’ … He chided my mother for paying her tithing, called her anything but wise or prudent; and said there were others who were strong and able to work that were supported from the tithing office. My mother turned upon him and said: ‘… You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold his blessings from me. I pay my tithing, not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing it. By keeping this and other laws, I expect to prosper, and to be able to provide for my family.’ … She prospered because she obeyed the laws of God. She had abundance to sustain her family. We never lacked as much as many others did. … That widow was entitled to the privileges of the house of God. No ordinance of the gospel could be denied her, for she was obedient to the laws of God” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 228–29).
What blessings did Sister Smith receive? What blessing did President Smith refer to when he said, “That widow was entitled to the privileges of the house of God”? What effect did Sister Smith’s example have on her young son?
It is important to remember that “the Lord does keep his promises. He truly … pours out his blessings upon those who are faithful and who obey his commandments. … These blessings may come in a financial or temporal way or may be realized by a spiritual outpouring, bringing strength, peace, and comfort. … The promises of the Lord will be kept” (Henry D. Taylor, in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 158; or Ensign, May 1974, 108).
Why is it important to recognize our spiritual blessings as well as our temporal blessings?
How have you or your family been blessed by paying tithing?
Display visual 6-b, “How tithing is spent.”
Have the assigned sister give a brief report on offerings and their use as explained in Gospel Principles chapter 32, “Tithes and Offerings.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer told a story about two missionaries who reported to their branch president that a family they were teaching the gospel had suddenly decided against baptism.
“The father had learned about tithing and canceled all further meetings with the missionaries. …
“A few days later the branch president persuaded the elders to join him in another visit to the family.
“‘I understand,’ he told the father, ‘that you have decided not to join the Church.’
“‘That is correct,’ he answered.
“‘The elders tell me that you are disturbed about tithing.’
“‘Yes,’ said the father. ‘They had not told us about it; and when I learned of it, I said, “Now that’s too much to ask. Our church has never asked anything like that.” We think that’s just too much, and we will not join.’
“‘Did they tell you about fast offering?’ he asked.
“‘No,’ said the man. ‘What is that?’
“‘In the Church we fast for two meals each month and give the value of the meals for the help of the poor.’
“‘They did not tell us that,’ the man said. …
“‘Did they explain the welfare program to you?’
“‘No,’ said the father. ‘What is that?’
“‘Well, we believe in helping one another. If someone is in need or ill or out of work or in trouble, we are organized to assist, and you would be expected to help. …’
“‘They didn’t tell us any of that,’ said the father.
“‘Well,’ said the branch president, ‘if you are turned away by a little thing like tithing, it is obvious you’re not ready for this Church. …’
“As they departed, almost as an afterthought, he turned and said, ‘Have you ever wondered why people will do all of these things willingly? … We pay [tithing]—and all of the rest—and count it a great privilege.
“‘If you could discover why, you would be within reach of the pearl of great price. …
“‘But,’ said the branch president, ‘it is your decision. I only hope you will pray about it.’
“A few days later the man appeared at the branch president’s home. … He wanted to schedule the baptism of his family” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 126–27; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 88).
Why is it important for us to pay offerings in addition to tithing?
When we pay our tithes and offerings, we should do it willingly. The scriptures tell us that we should give “not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
How do you feel if a person gives you something grudgingly?
Elder Matthew Cowley told the story of a good Maori sister who had the true spirit of tithing:
“I had a little mother … down in New Zealand. I knew her on my first mission when I was just a young boy. In those days she called me her son. When I went back to preside, she called me her father. …
“Now, on one occasion I called in as I always did when I visited that vicinity, to see this grand little woman, then in her eighties, and blind. She did not live in an organized branch, had no contact with the priesthood except as the missionaries visited there. …
“I went in and greeted her in the Maori fashion. She was out in her back yard by her little fire. I reached forth my hand to shake hands with her, … and she said: ‘Do not shake hands with me, Father.’
“I said: ‘Oh, that is clean dirt on your hands. I am willing to shake hands with you. I am glad to. I want to.’
“She said, ‘Not yet.’ Then she got on her hands and knees and crawled over to her little house. At the corner of the house there was a spade. She lifted up that spade and crawled off in another direction, measuring the distance as she went. She finally arrived at a spot and started digging down into the soil with that spade. It finally struck something hard. She took out the soil with her hands and lifted out a fruit jar. She opened that fruit jar and … took something out and handed it to me, and it turned out to be New Zealand money. In American money it would have been equivalent to one hundred dollars.
“She said: ‘There is my tithing. Now I can shake hands with the priesthood of God.’
“I said: ‘You do not owe that much tithing.’
“She said: ‘I know it. I do not owe it now, but I am paying some in advance, for I do not know when the priesthood of God will get around this way again.’
“And then I leaned over and pressed my nose and forehead against hers, and the tears from my eyes ran down her cheeks” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1948, 159–60).
Why did Elder Cowley weep over this woman’s payment of her tithes and offerings? Why should we give our tithes and offerings willingly?
President David O. McKay said, “He who gives [tithing] because he loves to help others and to further the cause of righteousness, who gives cheerfully and with thanksgiving in his heart … has his reward; for in giving he is really obtaining [blessings]” (“The Tenth Part,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1956, 701).
How can your payment of tithes and offerings show your love for your brothers and sisters in the Church? How can it show your love for the Lord?
Heavenly Father knows of our needs. He has given us this commandment and promise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
The payment of an honest tithe and the giving of offerings are important ways to show our love for our Heavenly Father and our willingness to help build His kingdom on earth. President Joseph F. Smith counseled: “By this principle (tithing) the loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to the test. By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it” (Gospel Doctrine, 225).
When we pay tithes and offerings with honesty and cheerfulness, we are expressing our gratitude for the Lord’s many blessings.
Obey the Lord’s commandment to pay tithing and obtain the blessings promised in Malachi 3:10. Teach the principle of tithing to your children by both word and deed.
Before presenting this lesson:
Study Gospel Principles chapter 32, “Tithes and Offerings.”
Ask a sister to give a brief report on offerings and their use as explained in Gospel Principles chapter 32.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.