I Couldn’t Afford Not to Pay Tithing
June 1977

“I Couldn’t Afford Not to Pay Tithing,” Ensign, June 1977, 70–71

I Couldn’t Afford Not to Pay Tithing

After completing basic training and special training as a surgical technician during World War II, I was assigned to the station hospital at an air base in Texas. There, following a little on-the-job training, I became a laboratory technician in charge of the blood chemistry section. It was interesting work and all went well until I was asked to sign an allotment form to authorize deductions from my pay for the purchase of war bonds. I refused to sign.

Soon I was summoned to company headquarters, where the commanding officer, a young captain, glared at me. In very crisp language he told me that I was the only man in the unit that hadn’t signed up to purchase war bonds and that anyone could afford a minimum deduction for this purpose. He thrust the papers and a pen across his desk and said, “Sign these.”

I had to defend my position. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, sir, but I simply cannot afford to purchase war bonds,” I said. “If the captain will just let me show him what my financial situation is, I believe he will agree with me.” I explained that as a private first class, after deductions for my wife’s allotment, government life insurance, laundry, and so forth, I only got $19.85 a month out of my base pay of $54.00.

The captain was listening. I told him that my wife also received an allotment of $50.00 for her, $12.00 for our little boy, and $10.00 for our baby girl—a total of $91.85 a month for the four of us. Then I listed our expenses in the order in which I paid them each month.

The first expense I listed was $9.20 tithing. The captain wanted to know what that was. When I explained it was a donation to our church, he told me I shouldn’t have to support the church while I was in military service. After all, I would have the rest of my life to contribute to the church. He thought I could eliminate that expense, leaving it to others who could afford it.

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You might court-martial me for saying so, sir, but one of the reasons I am in the military service is to defend my right to religious freedom so I can worship whom, when, and where I please. Neither you nor anybody else has the right to deny me and my family the blessings that come from paying the Lord what we owe him. I have been paying tithing all my life, and I have the blessings and receipts to prove it. I know it doesn’t cost to pay tithing—it pays.”

The captain was surprised, but he didn’t say anything. Maybe I started putting down our other expenses before he had a chance. I listed a monthly rent of $28.75 on our two-bedroom apartment, which, I explained, was the cheapest thing we had been able to find and we were happy to have it. I listed food, clothing, automobile expenses, etc., and it added up to more than $91.85 a month. I explained that the only way we had been able to make ends meet was to use up our savings and borrow on our insurance, and in an emergency we would have to borrow from relatives. But we weren’t complaining; we were making out okay.

I told the captain that once we had gone to the base and seen a show for 15¢ each, and after the show we had gone to the post exchange for two ten-cent dishes of ice cream. A few times I had bought a 5¢ bunch of sweet peas from the little boy who sold flowers on the corner near our house, and once I had spent 10¢ for two gardenias. These were the only unnecessary expenses I could think of. Then I said, “If the captain will show me how to increase our income or eliminate some expenses, I will be glad to sign the allotment papers.”

His immediate reply was, “I don’t see how you live. Return to duty.”

I went back to the laboratory. I didn’t hear any more about signing up for war bonds; but the next time a promotion roster came out for the company, Private First Class Foutz was promoted to corporal, the only one in the company to be promoted to corporal at that time.

Immediately I went to headquarters and signed up for a monthly $3.75 allotment to purchase war bonds. The increase in pay still left us more to live on, after paying additional tithing.

Not too many months later, orders came through for me to attend Officers Candidate School. I was the only member of the company to be sent to OCS while I was there. Then, after seventeen weeks of grueling mental and physical training, I was commissioned a second lieutenant. Within a year I became the commanding officer of about 150 enlisted men, 5 officers, and 30 civilian employees at a station hospital on a big air base in Kansas.

I know these rapid promotions would not have come to me if I had not stood firm on the principle of tithing. Through obedience I truly found the meaning of the Lord’s promise, “I will … pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10.)

  • F. Elmer Foutz, a retired soil scientist for the United States Bureau of Reclamation, recently served as high priest group leader in the Boise Twentieth Ward, Boise Idaho North Stake.

Illustrated by Glen Edwards