Stories from the General Authorities: Paying Tithing

“I really wonder what has gone wrong with father …”

Paying Tithing

Now I bear you my testimony, brothers and sisters, that I know this matter of tithing is a true principle and that blessings come from it. My parents taught me to pay tithing, and in the words of Enos I say, to their honor, “blessed be the name of my God for it.” (Enos 1:1.)

Perhaps you are aware that my family were refugees from Mexico. During the years that followed our arrival in the United States, Father had a difficult time getting enough food to feed his family. I remember the time about two years after we came out of Mexico (that would be about 1914) when Father got a job in Oakley, Idaho, teaching in the Cassia Academy for $80 a month.

When Father and his brother left Mexico, they both had large families. Knowing that they would have a difficult time making a living (they brought nothing out of Mexico except what they could bring in one trunk), they joined together and pooled their earnings. After a short stay in El Paso, Texas, they went together to Los Angeles, California, where they worked as carpenters. Later they moved to Oakley, Idaho, where they could raise their families in a Latter-day Saint environment. When one of them was out of work, they divided the income of the other and thus eked out an existence for both families. My uncle was out of work one winter in Idaho. That left them the $80 my father received for teaching with which to support about seventeen people. They had to pay rent; they had to buy everything they ate; and they would have had to buy fuel, except I went out on the hillside and dug the sagebrush from under the snow for fuel. I kept warm digging, and Mother kept warm poking it into the stove.

The question came up in the family council—should father pay tithing on that $80? If he didn’t he would have $40 a month to care for the family; if he did, it would be cut down by $4, and he would have $36 a month. I remember that council, and I remember that they decided they would pay their tithing; and I remember they sent me with the tithing to the bishop. It was cold, and I didn’t have warm clothes; I really wondered what had gone wrong with Father. But I learned from that—the training of my parents—I learned there is truth in the Lord’s promises.

I know that you have a great feeling if you live the law of tithing. I remember a time just after my wife and I married; I was working my way through school, and I was working at the post office eight hours a day and carrying a full course of law. We had lost a baby, and we had a large hospital bill. I decided to quit the post office and start the practice of law. I quit in September and failed to pay tithing that month because I had built up a retirement benefit with the government that was to be paid to me in November; I felt I could pay my tithing with that. But it didn’t come in November, and it didn’t come in December. I had to report that year to my bishop that I had not paid a full tithe. But I did not feel good about it, so I kept a record and paid it in installments at eight percent interest until I had paid the deficit in full. I had a good feeling after I got it paid. I knew the Lord had understood and accepted my performance.

I tell you now that I know from my own experience, and I bear you my witness as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—a special witness that I am happy to bear to all the world under any circumstances—that there is a peace and a comfort and assurance that comes to one who will pay an honest tithing, a liberal tithing. If you ever come to a time when you don’t know how much you owe, pay a little more. It is better to pay too much than too little.

[illustration] Illustrated by Peggy Proctor