Tithing Came before Presents

“Tithing Came before Presents,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 41

Tithing Came before Presents

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the United States entered the Great Depression. Banks failed, and many businesses went bankrupt. As Christmas approached that year, many workers were unemployed.

Our family was among the lucky ones. We had no money in the banks, and so lost none when they closed their doors. My husband was still employed.

But unexpectedly, just a week before Christmas, his job was terminated. When he brought home his last paycheck, which amounted to sixty-three dollars, our first thought was, “How shall we spend it?”

We had canned plenty of fruit and vegetables, and we had a cow and chickens to provide milk, butter, and eggs. Our food supply was ample, so we planned to spend some of the money on Christmas presents for our three young children, ages six, four, and one.

Then the bishop announced that he would hold tithing settlement the following weekend. We had paid some tithing each month but had not paid it in full. We were always hoping that our finances would improve and make it possible for us to catch up.

After doing a little bookkeeping, we learned that we owed the bishop exactly sixty dollars if we were to end the year as full tithe-payers. Never had sixty dollars seemed such a vast amount! We were learning one of the greatest lessons in life: “Be honest with the Lord each payday.”

The snow was deep, and the old Model-T Ford refused to start, even when my husband cranked it. We decided to walk to the bishop’s home and give him the sixty dollars before we were tempted to spend some of it.

The walk back home seemed much shorter. We still had three dollars left for Christmas shopping.

The next day we went to the five-and-ten-cent store and purchased a small can of black paint, and another of red. We also bought a few trinkets that would please the children. My husband and I worked long hours after the children were asleep, creating wooden toys from scrap lumber and painting them. I sewed stuffed animals and made a Raggedy Ann doll.

When those tasks were finished, my husband went to get a Christmas tree from a nearby canyon. (In those days, Christmas trees were free if you cut them yourself.) While he was gone, the children and I made candy, popcorn balls, and cookies.

When we brought in the freshly-cut tree, the children helped us trim it, and we settled down to enjoy Christmas despite our lack of funds.

About the middle of January, my husband received a phone call with an offer of employment at one hundred and fifty dollars a month. It seemed like a fortune to us! From then until the day he died, my husband was never unemployed, and we prospered both spiritually and financially.

In Malachi 3:10 [Mal. 3:10] we read: “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.”

We accepted the challenge, and the blessings indeed came.

  • Jennie N. Ernstrom is a member of the Logan Eleventh Ward, Logan Utah South Stake.

Illustrated by Stephen Moore