“Tithing Blessings,” Friend, Jan. 1974, 7
Elder Robert L. Simpson was impressed by the faith of an old Maori brother in New Zealand.
As the missionaries came to his humble little fishing shack located off the beaten track, he hurried to find an envelope in which he had stuffed a sizable sum of hard-earned money. He promptly handed the envelope containing the money to the missionaries.
Inside the envelope was a letter from the mission office addressed to the man. He could not read English, but he could recognize the figures contained in the letter. He thought the mission needed the cash amount mentioned for some special purpose, and he had it all ready.
After the missionaries translated the letter for him, he was surprised to learn that the letter was a receipt for last year’s tithing. His faith was so strong that he was ready and willing to pay the same amount all over again if the Lord’s servants needed it for His work.
One day while Elder LeGrand Richards was Presiding Bishop of the Church, he met a young boy carrying a large odd-shaped pumpkin. Bishop Richards asked the boy what he planned to do with his pumpkin.
“I’m going to give it to my bishop as tithing on the crop I have raised all by myself,” the boy replied.
Bishop Richards asked the boy’s name and then visited with him a moment about the importance of tithing. He explained that blessings come to us as we pay our tithing because we are sharing with others.
A few days later as Bishop Richards was leaving the regional storehouse in Salt Lake City to return to his office, he saw an old couple loading their small wagon. They were getting ready to take home the supplies they had just received from the storehouse. Looking closer, Bishop Richards saw the boy’s pumpkin in their wagon. Its huge size and odd shape made it impossible to mistake.
Imagine the boy’s surprise when a short time later he received a letter from Bishop Richards telling him of the joy his pumpkin had brought to this grateful old couple. They now could have something special for their holiday dinner because a young boy had shared his blessings by paying his tithing.
Nell was so excited she could hardly wait to change her Sunday clothes and run out to tell Dad what she had learned at conference. She didn’t even take time to put on her shoes, but ran barefoot across the dusty yard.
It was June 1899. There had been no rain in southern Utah for more than two years. The streams and even the wells around St. George had dried up. No crops could grow without water, and thousands of cattle had died on the range. Some of the families had already moved, and now Dad was also preparing to leave. Earlier that morning he had decided he was too busy packing the wagon to go to conference, even though President Lorenzo Snow had come all the way from Salt Lake City to talk to the people.
“Dad! Oh, Dad!” Nell called as she ran to him. “You can take our things out of the wagon. We don’t have to leave! In conference today President Snow said if the people will pay their tithing and plant their fields, the rains will come and we’ll have food.”
But Dad didn’t seem to understand. He just shook his head and sat down on the tongue of the wagon, staring out across the barren fields.
Dad had explained again and again that they could not live through another year without rain. There was very little food on their pantry shelves, and all the money that was left was the twenty dollars Grandfather had given to Nell.
Later that evening as Dad was washing up for dinner, Nell overheard him tell Mother they should all be ready to start at six the next morning. “We can make Thomson’s ranch by noon if we do,” he said.
The family sat down to a simple meal. No one spoke. Nell felt so sad she could hardly choke down the food. Finally she swallowed hard and said, “Grandfather once told me a story about how the people were blessed by doing exactly as Brigham Young asked them to do.”
Her father and mother stopped eating to listen as Nell continued, “When I said I wished I had lived then so I could have followed a prophet, Grandfather said that President Snow is our prophet today just like Brigham Young was then and that we should all follow him.”
After Nell finished telling the story, she asked Dad to take her precious twenty dollars. “You can give it to Bishop Thorne,” she explained, “to help bring rain to St. George!”
Early the next morning Nell looked out the window and saw a great cloud of dust blowing at the far end of the field. She dressed quickly and ran out across the dry ground.
When Dad saw her, he stopped the horses and held out his arms. Nell flew into them and he held her close. “Good morning, sleepyhead,” he said. “I thought you’d never get here in time to help me plow the field and plant our seeds!”
During the hot dry weeks that followed, the people of St. George anxiously scanned the cloudless sky and sadly shook their heads. But neither Nell nor her father were at all surprised when on the second of August it began to rain.
Joseph and his brother eagerly dug the potatoes out of the moist ground. Food had been scarce for many months in the little Smith home, and for many days there had been nothing to eat but nettle greens, thistle, or sego roots. Now as they worked, they could almost taste the fluffy white vegetable mounds they were certain their mother would prepare for the family. Maybe there would even be butter to go with the potatoes!
Just as they finished, the boys’ mother came out with the news that the best potatoes were to be loaded into a wagon so they could take them to the tithing office. The boys, who had already learned that their mother could not be talked out of doing what she felt was right, silently loaded the wagon. They carefully selected the best potatoes for tithing and saved the others for their own use.
Years later when Joseph became the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he vividly remembered the incident and told it in these words:
I was a little boy at the time and drove the team. When we drove up to the steps of the tithing office, ready to unload the potatoes, one of the clerks came over and said to my mother, “Widow Smith, it’s a shame that you should have to pay tithing.”
He said a number of other things, too, and then my mother turned on him and said, “William, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold His blessings from me. I pay my tithing not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing so. By keeping this and other laws, I expect to prosper and to be able to provide for my family.”