“The Sacred Law of Tithing,” Ensign, Dec. 1989, 2
On more than one occasion as a youth I heard President Heber J. Grant, his voice ringing with conviction, bear his witness concerning the sacred law of tithing and the marvelous promises which the Lord has made to those who are honest in paying their tithes and offerings. I was deeply impressed by what I heard.
Often quoted were these great words from the prophet 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 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.
“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 field, saith the Lord of hosts.
“And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:8–12.)
Whenever I heard President Grant read these words from the Old Testament, I knew it was the Lord, the God of heaven, who made those remarkable promises. I knew that he was in a position to keep his promises. I have long since come to know that he does so.
I will always be grateful for a father and a mother who, as far back as I can remember, taught us to pay our tithing. In those days, in the ward in which we lived, the bishop did not have an office in the meetinghouse. We went to his home each December for tithing settlement. I can still sense my feelings of trepidation as I walked into that home as a very small boy to settle my tithing with Bishop John C. Duncan. The amount may have been only twenty-five cents, since we did not have very much in those lean times, but it was an honest 10 percent as we had figured it in our childish way, based on the little couplet that we would recite in Sunday School:
What is tithing? I will tell you every time.
Ten cents from a dollar, and a penny from a dime.
We never felt that it was a sacrifice to pay our tithing. We felt it was an obligation, that even as small children we were doing our duty as the Lord had outlined that duty, and that we were assisting his church in the great work it had to accomplish.
We did not do it with the expectation of material blessings, although we can testify that we have been so blessed. The Lord has opened the windows of heaven and poured out his blessings in marvelous measure. I know that he will bless all who walk in obedience to this commandment.
Now, do not get me wrong. I do not say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the windows of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on the Lord’s work. The blessing to the giver is an ancillary return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit. In speaking of opening the windows of heaven, Malachi says:
“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 field. …
“And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.” [Mal. 3:11–12]
There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world. There is the great boon of health. The Lord has promised that he will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Malachi speaks of the fruits of our ground. May not that rebuke of the devourer apply to various of our personal efforts and concerns?
There is promised in modern revelation a great blessing of wisdom, of knowledge, even hidden treasures of knowledge. Malachi has told us that ours shall be a delightsome land if we will walk in obedience to this law. I can interpret the word land as people, that those who walk in obedience shall be a delightsome people. What a marvelous condition to be a delightsome people whom others would describe as blessed!
We hear some these days who say that because of economic pressures they cannot afford to pay their tithing. I recall an experience I had as a stake president some years ago. A man came to get his temple recommend signed. I questioned him in the usual way and asked, among other things, whether he was paying an honest tithing. He candidly replied that he was not, that he could not afford to because of his many debts. I felt impressed to tell him that he would not pay his debts until he paid his tithing.
He went along for a year or two in his normal way, and then made a decision. He talked about it some time later, telling me: “What you told me has proved to be true. I felt I could not pay my tithing because of my debts. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, somehow I could not manage to reduce my debt. Finally my wife and I sat down together and talked about it and concluded we would try the promise of the Lord. We have done so. And somehow in a way we can’t quite understand, the Lord has blessed us. We have not missed that which we have given to him, and for the first time in many years we are reducing our debt. We have come to the wisdom of budgeting our expenditures and of determining where our funds have been going. Because we now have a higher objective, we are able to curtail some of our appetites and desires. And above all of this, we feel we can now go to the house of the Lord with those deserving of this wonderful blessing.”
We can pay our tithing. It is not so much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. I have yet to find a faithful tithe payer who cannot testify that in a very literal and wonderful way the windows of heaven have been opened and blessings have been poured out upon him or her.
I urge you, my brethren and sisters, every one of you, to take the Lord at his word in this important matter. It is he who has given the commandment and made the promise. I go back to Nephi, who in a time of worry and concern said to his brothers, “Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth.” (1 Ne. 4:1.)
With all my heart, I plead with the Latter-day Saints to live honestly with the Lord in the payment of tithes and offerings. I plead with youth to establish this habit while you are still young and to resolve to continue with it all the days of your lives. I plead with you who are Church officers to plead with the people for their benefit and blessing to increase their faithfulness in the payment of tithes and offerings.
It is a miracle to me that the Church is able to accomplish so much. It is a miracle made possible by faith, under a plan which the Lord himself established for the financing of his kingdom.
Tithing is so simple and straightforward a thing. The principle, as it applies to us, is actually set forth in one verse of section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
“And after that [after the Saints offered their ‘surplus property’ to the bishop in 1838], 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.” [D&C 119:4]
For many years, presidents of the Church have interpreted “interest” as “income.” Beyond that, they have not elaborated. That fourth verse consists of thirty-five words. Contrast that with the cumbersome and complex tax codes enacted and enforced by governments.
The Lord has laid a tremendous responsibility upon the Church. Tithing is the source of income for the Church to carry forward its mandated activities.
At this season of the year when hearts turn to giving gifts of love to family, friends, and those in need, may we be deeply conscious also of the Lord’s remarkable gifts to us. May God help us to be faithful in returning to him, as our consecrated gift, a portion of the abundance He has bestowed upon us.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:
The Lord has made marvelous promises to those who are honest in the payment of their tithing.
Granting us health, wisdom, knowledge, the ability to be a delightsome people, and the privilege of having the devourer rebuked for our sakes are a few of the ways the Lord may bless us when we keep the law of tithing.
Tithing is paid by faith more than it is by money.
The Lord has laid upon the Church a tremendous responsibility, and tithing is the financial means by which it is carried forth.
Relate your feelings about tithing. Ask family members to share their feelings.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?