In these times of troublous economic concern and worry, we must forcefully remind ourselves, both individually and as a church, that the Lord has given us a spiritual and economic law which, when fully obeyed, will bring promised blessings so great that “there will not be room enough to receive” them (Mal. 3:10).
I speak of the law of tithing, which can be our great blessing and safety, our great assurance of divine assistance. It has always been impressive to me that of all the teachings from Old Testament prophets that the Lord could have given anew to the Nephites when he visited them, he gave Malachi’s stirring promise regarding tithing:
“And it came to pass that [Jesus] commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them. And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto Malachi … Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
“Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my 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.
“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields, saith the Lord of Hosts.
“And all nations shall call you blessed.” (3 Ne. 24:1, 8–12.)
Who in our time does not need these promised blessings?
In hard times once were another people, the people of the kingdom of Judah. They had lived through the wickedness of King Ahaz; they had suffered economic and political reverses at the hands of the Assyrians and Philistines. But when young King Hezekiah began to reign, “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chr. 29:2). Thus, the hearts and minds of the people were again turned to the teachings of the scriptures, and the commandments were again followed. The story of what happened thereafter is another witness of how the Lord fulfills his promises:
“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
“… They also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithes of holy things which were consecrated unto the Lord their God, and laid them by heaps.
“And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord, and his people Israel.
“Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.
“And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store. …
“And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God.
“And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” (2 Chr. 31:5–6, 8–10, 20–21.)
The Lord prospered Judah through their hard times because it truly is as the Psalmist says: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).
In the latter days the Lord has said that if the Saints keep the commandments and “offer thine oblations” that “the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. … Yea, all things which come of the earth … are made for the benefit and use of man.” (D&C 59:12, 16, 18.)
The prophets of all dispensations have clearly taught the law of tithing for the blessing and protection of the Lord’s people. On this subject, we may read the word of the Lord in our dispensation:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require … that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord. …
“And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of Zion unto you.
“And this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion. Even so. Amen.” (D&C 119:1, 4, 6–7.)
The Lord herein makes clear that tithing is his law and is required of all his followers. It is our honor and privilege, our safety and promise, our great blessing to live this law of God. To fail to meet this obligation in full is to deny ourselves the promises and is to omit a weighty matter. It is a transgression, not an inconsequential oversight.
Yes, it may take great faith to pay tithes when funds are scarce and demands are great. But we remember the promise from the Father to Malachi. We also remember the Lord’s promise in our day: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
These principles should be taught with regularity and with living testimony by parents to their children. The time to teach these real lessons of life is when the child is small. As a child he is receptive, he is open, and he will accept the suggestions of his parents.
I remember as a youth walking with my mother up the dusty road to the bishop’s house in a day when we often paid tithing from our animals and produce. As we walked, I said, “Why do we take the eggs to the bishop?” She answered, “Because they are tithing eggs and the bishop receives the tithing for Heavenly Father.” My mother then recounted how each evening when the eggs were brought in, the first one went into a small basket and the next nine went into a large basket. I first learned the law of tithing from my beloved mother.
To the west of our home was our garden plot. Part of the garden was in potatoes. One day my father said to my sister and me, “There are more potatoes than we can use. If you would like to sell some, you may do so.” My sister Alice and I dug some up and hauled them down to a hotel and sold them. When we showed the money to our father, he asked what we were going to do with it. We said we would divide it before buying some things we wanted. Then he questioned, “What about your tithing?” He said, “The Lord has been good to us. We planted and cultivated and harvested, but the earth is the Lord’s. He sent the moisture and the sunshine. One-tenth we always give back to the Lord for his part.” My father made no requirement; he merely explained it so convincingly that we felt it an honor and privilege to pay tithing.
I have related before my experience with a friend who took me to his ranch. He unlocked the door of a large new automobile, slid behind the wheel, and said proudly, “How do you like my new car?” We rode in luxurious comfort into the rural areas to a beautiful new landscaped home, and he said with no little pride, “This is my home.”
He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was setting behind the distant hills. He surveyed his vast domain. Pointing to the north, he asked, “Do you see that clump of trees yonder?” I could plainly discern them in the fading day.
He pointed to the east. “Do you see the lake shimmering in the sunset?” It too was visible.
“Now, the bluff that’s on the south.” We turned about to scan the distance. He identified barns, silos, the ranch house to the west. With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, “From the clump of trees to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine. And the dark specks in the meadow—those cattle are also mine.”
And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.
“From whom did the government get it?” I asked. “What was paid for it?” There came into my mind the declaration of the Psalmist, boldly restated by Paul: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:26).
And then I asked, “Did title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did he get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If a gift, from whom? If a sale, with what exchange or currency? If a lease, do you make proper accounting?”
And then I asked, “What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?”
“Where did you get the money?”
“From my toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength.”
And then I asked, “Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?”
He spoke of food.
“Where did the food originate?”
“From sun and atmosphere and soil and water.”
“And who brought those elements here?”
I quoted the Psalmist: “Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary” (Ps. 68:9).
“If the land is not yours, then what accounting do you make to your landlord for his bounties? The scripture says: ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.’ What percentage of your increase do you pay Caesar? And what percent to God?
I said again: “I seem to find no place in holy writ where God has said, ‘I give you title to this land unconditionally.’
“I cannot find such scripture, but I do find this from Psalms: ‘Those that wait upon the Lord, … shall inherit the earth’ (Ps. 37:9).
“And I remember that our Creator covenanted in the council in heaven with us all: ‘[And] we will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell’ (Abr. 3:24).
“It seems more of a lease on which a rental is exacted than of a simple title.
“This does not seem to convey the earth but only the use and contents which are given to men on condition that they live all of the commandments of God.”
But my friend continued to mumble, “Mine—mine,” as if to convince himself against the surer knowledge that he was at best a recreant renter.
That was long years ago. I later saw him lying in his death among luxurious furnishings in a palatial home. His had been a vast estate. And I folded his arms upon his breast, and drew down the little curtains over his eyes. I spoke at his funeral, and I followed the cortege from the good piece of earth he had claimed to his grave, a tiny, oblong area the length of a tall man, the width of a heavy one.
Later I saw that same estate, yellow in grain, green in lucerne, white in cotton, seemingly unmindful of him who had claimed it.
My dear brethren and sisters, I testify to all of you that tithing is indeed a great blessing and a law for our benefit. Let us draw our family circles around us and again read the promise that the Lord testified came from the Father, a promise none of us can afford to be without: “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” (Mal. 3:10).
Let this, then, be our watchword: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
If we will do so, and keep the commandments with all our heart as did Hezekiah, the Lord will guide us through troublous times, and we shall gratefully see his help in our behalf, and we will give deep love and appreciation to him for his many kindnesses and goodnesses. He is our Lord and our Great Strength. If we are worthy, he will be there in our time of need. Of that I have a sure understanding.