The Little Gray Envelope

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“The Little Gray Envelope,” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 60

The Little Gray Envelope

My husband, Steve, and I were attending Brigham Young University. We each worked two or three jobs and applied for scholarships, grants, and loans to make ends meet. It was hard work, and after two years we decided to take a temporary job in Cincinnati, Ohio.

At the end of six months, Steve was offered a permanent job with the company at a different plant. We accepted the offer and made plans to finish our degrees through BYU’s Independent Study program.

Our new job came with a larger paycheck, which made us feel rich. We overextended ourselves very quickly buying furnishings for our new apartment. When payday came, we were unpleasantly surprised.

Steve and I sat down with our checkbook. We paid our tithing first and then paid the bills. When we finished, the bottom line was zero. There was no money left, not even for groceries. I couldn’t believe it.

Suddenly the thought of the little gray tithing envelope came to mind. “Shall we postpone paying our tithing until next month?” I asked.

“No,” Steve answered. “We’ll just pay it and do our best.”

At first I couldn’t believe that Steve would allow us to suffer when all he had to do was wait an extra month to pay tithing. Instead of arguing, I went to the bedroom and prayed. I didn’t receive any comfort, and all week I was upset and filled with anxiety. During the week I found myself glancing often at the little gray envelope.

On Sunday we turned in our tithing. With the temptation removed, I felt better and admitted to myself that we had done the right thing. I had been taught all my life to pay tithing and had never questioned the commandment. Until now.

Steve and I wondered why we struggled to pay tithing now that our income was higher than when we’d been students. What had happened to us?

After much thought and prayer, we realized that we needed to put our priorities in order. Our needs—food, shelter, clothing—had to come first. Like children in a candy store, we had reached out for things we wanted before taking care of necessities. The Lord had blessed us with the means, but we had to acquire our own wisdom. Tithing, we decided, would always be our first priority.

That night, for the first time since payday, I felt the warm, loving influence of the Spirit.

A week and a half after we paid our tithing, Steve’s secretary from his old job called. She had been cleaning out her desk and had found a check for him dated three months earlier. Would he like to come and get it?

That night we rejoiced. We thanked our Father in Heaven, grateful that he had provided for our temporal needs. As we headed for the grocery store with our new funds, I stopped suddenly and went back inside. I had to write out a check for our tithing. First.