Topic Study: Tithing

(July 2006 TG Entry: Tithing.  Sacrament Meeting talk given in Watseka, Illinois, July 9, 2006)

I             Church Activity

I wondered for a number of years about this famous tithing scripture.

23  Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.

D&C 64:23

I wondered what about tithing could be so important that out of all the gospel principles we need to live to be worthy to greet the Savior at the Second Coming, why is tithing singled out as, perhaps, the most important, or at least the one with a specific promise.

A while later, I heard President Monson give make these comments in his talk in the 1996 Priesthood session of General Conference.

I recognize that there are thousands of missionaries attending this priesthood meeting tonight. I wish to share a word or two especially with you. During the time I served as a mission president, and then in thousands of missionary interviews as a member of the Twelve, I said to the missionaries I interviewed, “When you return to your home, I ask that you make three commitments.” Eagerly, without knowing what the commitments were, they would nod their approval. I then shared with them this counsel:

  1. Prepare well for your vocation, profession, or trade, and be the very best you can be at what you choose to do.
  2. Quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Marry the right person [at the right time], in the right place, [and] by the right authority.” 4 Thus far, their responses were spontaneous and enthusiastic. Then I would counsel:
  3. Always be active in the Church. Some of the missionaries would look a little quizzical before responding, and I would say, “Let me put the matter another way. Three words provide the formula: Pay your tithing.” Each would affirm determination to do so. I truly believe that the payment of an honest tithing will go a long way to ensure continued activity in the Church.

I realized what he was saying, and how it applied to the scripture.  Tithing, of all gospel principles, is the one most likely to keep us active in the church, where we will have the opportunity to learn and practice all the other principles that are needed to be worthy of enduring the Second Coming.

II            Relation to Law of Consecration

So, I assume we are all familiar with the law of consecration.  Consecration seems to demand that we give everything we have to the Lord and his church.  It seems that tithing, in requiring only 10% of what we have is much less demanding.

This thought reinforced when we know that the law of consecration was practiced in Missouri in the days of Joseph Smith, but it wasn’t kept, it was “withdrawn” for a time.  See the heading to section 119.

So we might be left thinking that tithing is a temporary thing, waiting for the establishment of the law of consecration again, sort of like the law of Moses relative to the full Gospel.

But as I read the words of section 119, I don’t get that same impression.  Note that it starts with the law of consecration:

1  VERILY, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,

2  For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.

3  And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

D&C 119:1 – 3

But then comes what we traditionally call tithing:

4  And after that, 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

Now that phasing, “standing law unto them forever, for my holy [meaning the Melchizedek] priesthood, saith the Lord” does not sound very temporary to me.  It sounds pretty permanent.

It seems to me that paying tithing is something we might do in eternity.  It is something that runs adjacent to the law of the consecration.  The law of consecration takes into account our ‘needs and wants.”  But our needs and wants are always tempered by the requirement to give 10% to the Lord.

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