In the previous series "Teach Us Thy Statutes, Thy Law" and "Stewards of Grace," one of the main things I was trying to say was, "Why do we pride ourselves on living a lesser law while pretending we're actually living the higher law?"
The question we should ask ourselves is, "Are we deceived, or just hypocrites?" (That question was not meant to be judgmental; I am not accusing anyone but myself.)
Religion is expert at sleight of hand: skillfully diverting our eyes (and trust) away from God by manipulating our faith through the prestidigitation of priestcraft.
Sleight of hand
One of the simplest tricks of the devil is to take telestial practices, doctrines and programs and make us think they are all we need, when in fact they are impotent to save us, to transform us, to produce a mighty change of heart or a real relationship with God. The devil rebrands the same ol' snake oil and says, "Drink this celestial elixir."
I mean, who in the world is following Satan intentionally? We follow him unknowingly because we believe we are following Christ.
I heard John MacArthur say something like, "The sign above the road to hell is marked "HEAVEN."
What's Lucifer's plan? To convince us we're progressing along the straight and narrow path when in fact we're knee deep in the quicksand of a hollow religion, living on the scraps of a dead, or lesser, law. (The name "Lucifer" means Torch-bearer; maybe it should be translated Gas-lighter.)
Poor Unfortunate Souls
What's the harm of living a lesser law, one might ask? We're not perfect, after all.
The problem is very real. The problem is the Law of the Harvest. The problem is expecting the fruits of the celestial kingdom to come from living a lesser law.
Are we gonna plant a tomato seed and harvest a giraffe? And yet . . . just maybe . . .
So in this Series, "The Time of Harvest is Come," we will discuss the spiritual implications of the Law of the Harvest, and why we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage when we settle for a lesser law.
The Magic Kingdom
The devil's bargain is to trade something of eternal worth for something of lesser value. That is how we slip from the gospel law, trading the pure word of God for sacred cows.
Have you noticed how doctrines and practices that are "lesser" often end up becoming sacred cows?
It's kind of surprising, really. That in the midst of Christ's glorious Good News; in the bosom of eternal and infinite love; in the presence of unfailing redeeming grace . . . we want to wrangle over which hand to take the sacrament with, or what color of shirt we should wear to church; or whether open-toed sandals are modest; or whether we should play with face cards; or drink caffeine; or watch rated R movies; or stand when a dignitary enters (or leaves) a room; or eat at a restaurant on Sunday; and so on.
A "sacred cow" is defined as "an idea, custom, or institution held to be above criticism."
We can usually tell when we've struck someone's sacred cow because they become defensive about it, their pride piqued.
My favorite sacred cow is Home Teaching . . . I mean, Ministering.
TRIGGER WARNING: This series may contain several sacred cows headed to the slaughterhouse.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:
One of the main reasons couples get divorced is because of . . . money.
Managing finances as a couple can be stressful. Why? Because a partnership is built on trust.
1. Like having an affair, financial infidelity is devastating to that trust.
2. What is financial infidelity? Some examples include secret bank accounts, undisclosed debt, and hidden purchases.
3. In situations where one partner controls the money, it is easy for emotional and economic abuse to occur.
4. Financial equality is a sign that the partners honor and respect the other. When there is not financial equality, the partner who controls the money gets to decide the financial goals, means, and priorities without the consent of their partner.
5. Secrecy is a red flag. A desire to not be accountable to the other partner is a red flag.
6. Without transparency, there cannot be mutual trust and equality.
Managing finances as a church can be stressful. Why? Because a faith community is built on trust.
1. Like having an affair, financial infidelity is devastating to that trust.
2. What is financial infidelity? Some examples include secret bank accounts, undisclosed debt, and hidden purchases.
3. In situations where leadership controls the money, it is easy for emotional and economic abuse to occur.
4. Financial equality is a sign that the parties honor and respect the other. When there is notfinancial equality, the people who control the money get to decide the financial goals, means, and priorities for the entire group without their common consent.
5. Secrecy is a red flag. A desire to not be accountable to the members is a red flag.
6. Without transparency, there cannot be mutual trust and equality.
The Parable of the Unjust Husband
A man and a woman marry in their early thirties. Both have successful careers: he is a banker and she is a doctor. The night before their wedding, the man says to his bride-to-be: "Honey, we love each other. I want you to trust me always. I had my lawyer draw up a prenuptial agreement for you to sign."
"What?" the woman says. "I want us to remain together because we love each other, not because of some contract. I won't sign it."
"Then we cannot be together. But you can trust me: I will do what is best for us. I will do what is right. You have to honor my position as the head of our household, after all."
The woman truly loved the man and signed the prenuptial agreement, which required her to have her employer deposit her paycheck electronically into a shared bank account that the husband controlled. One day shortly after the honeymoon she tried to withdraw funds at the ATM to buy a pretty dress.
ACCESS DENIED, the ATM said.
She called her husband and said, "There is a problem with our bank account. It won't let me take any money out."
"There's no problem," said the husband. "Only I can withdraw funds. The Bank only recognizes my signature."
"Then how am I supposed to get my money? I want to buy a dress," she said.
"First, there is no 'my' money now that we're married. It is all 'our' money," he said. "And you can't buy a dress; it is not in the budget. I will give you a budget at the beginning of the month and enough money for the expenses I have listed in the budget."
She swallowed. "If it is "our" money, how come only you can access it?"
One day the woman asked her husband to print out their bank records so she could see how much money they had saved in the bank.
"I cannot do that," the man said.
"But it's our money!" she cried.
"Well, yes, but it is my duty as the head of the household to manage our money for the both of us. Having you looking over my shoulder won't help at all."
"Wait a minute," she said, feeling a heat grow in her chest, "How is it I cannot use 'our' money unless I have your permission, and I cannot even know how much money 'we' have . . . and yet you claim it is 'ours?' That is not honest."
"It is what the prenuptial agreement says."
"I signed that agreement because I thought you loved me. But now I see that you do not, for you don't treat me as an equal. Love cannot exist without trust, and you show me no trust. Therefore, you do not love me."
What Does It Mean to "Deal Justly" With Each Other?
Raise your hand if you believe the husband in the Parable of the Unjust Husband was being fair. Was he "dealing justly" with his wife?
Does the Lord care about justice? Here's a clue: the prophet Samuel made a big deal about his handling of the people's finances when he gave his own accounting to them:
I am old and grayheaded; and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?
And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand.
(1 Samuel 12:2-4)
Here's the point: Samuel proved his prophetic calling by the way he dealt justly with the people's possessions.
(Detail from “Vision of Ezekiel of the Valley of Dry Bones,” a 1579 engraving by Johann Sadeler in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.)
Don't Mess with Ezekiel
Ezekiel is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I think it is telling that Joseph Smith frequently turned to Ezekiel for his preaching.
Long after the prophet Samuel, the prophet Ezekiel spoke about what it means to be "just":
If he . . . hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife,
Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination,
Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live?
he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die.
Here's the point: Notice how Ezekiel mirrors adultery with financial unchastity?
Stephen, the great martyr, gave one of the most triumphant sermons of all time in Acts 7. At the end of his life, as he was being tried for blasphemy before the Jewish Council, he gave Christ one of my favorite names.
In the midst of agony he found something beautiful to focus on.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers.
I don't think that it is a coincidence that Saul (who stood watch over Stephen's execution and heard Stephen testify of the Just One) was later told by Ananias after his conversion, "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth" (Acts 22:14).
There is Just One who can save us: Jesus. Those who follow Him are described as coming forth in the "resurrection of the just." We can be just like the Just One.
And what did Jesus say to do?
When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Here's the point: When we require compensation from the poor and needy, we are "oppressing" them.
Oppress Not the Widow
The backbone of the law of Moses was its spirit of compassion and mercy (really). And if a lesser law could show such generosity of heart, imagine what a higher law requires of us!
The prophet Zechariah said:
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, nor the stranger, nor the poor.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
And they made their hearts as adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets.
"Adamant" means to "refuse to be persuaded or to change one's mind." It is also a legendary rock, sometimes associated with diamond.
Here Zechariah is saying, "Stop oppressing the widow, orphans and poor," and instead of changing their practices, the people hardened their hearts into diamonds. "Where's the profit in it?" I can hear them asking.
The Pharisees, too, were expert at twisting oppressive practices into "faith promoting" traditions. Which is why the Lord said they were "full of extortion and excess" (Matt. 23:25).
"Extortion" means to "obtain something, especially money, through force or threats."
Is it "extortion" to tell someone, "I know you can't buy food for your children, but if you don't pay tithing, you can't receive the ordinances necessary for exaltation, and thus you'll go to a lesser kingdom. Sorry."
Is this an example of "devouring widow's houses" (Matt. 23:14)?
Here's the point: Religious systems are especially prone to extortionist behaviors because they hold the threat of damnation over their adherents.
Okay, this part gets real.
Jesus called out the Pharisees for their perverted ingenuity in which they rendered "the commandment of God of none effect" (Matt. 15:6) by not taking care of their parents. Sure, one of the most important commandments was to honor their father and their mother, which included providing for their needs in old age; so how did the Pharisees, who were such spiritual giants, manage to turn the word of God on its head?
By using a creative loophole called "Corban."
This is how it worked: Instead of giving ol' mom and pop the financial help they needed, a "dutiful" son would make a vow, or gift, called Corban, in which he dedicated (i.e., consecrated) his possessions to the Temple Treasury instead.
Let me paraphrase: "Too bad folks, this all be God's someday."
Conveniently the Pharisee didn't have to give the Corban to the temple until he died. "The vow to consecrate his savings, even at death, to the temple absolved a man from the duty of succoring his parents," one bible commentary explains. Another says, "The gift was irrevocably dedicated to the temple . . . thus reserving [the Corban] to their own selfish use."
Now let's look at the scripture itself:
Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift ("Corban"), by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Are we using the same excuse of Corban when we say, "Oh, I'd really like to help you out, but I have to pay God my tithing, so I can't. Sorry."
Here's the point: A religious practice that excuses us from keeping God's law in the name of Corban is abominable.
Time for a Fresh Start
Where do we go from here? How do we reset? How do we cleanse our financial palette?
The Lord has an app for that: the Year of Jubilee.
Now, I understand we don't live the law of Moses. But how cool is it that a lesser law includes such a generous principle? It makes me believe the higher law, or gospel of Christ, must contain something truly remarkable to top the Year of Jubilee!
Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25)
Seven is a special number. Seven times seven must be really special. So the 49th year was declared to be the Year of Jubilee. What happened every 49th year?
1. Slaves were set free.
2. Prisoners were set free.
3. Unpaid debts were forgiven.
4. No farming or harvesting of the fields, since it was a like a Sabbatical Year of rest.
God's Debt Forgiveness Program
Has the time come for everyone to be set free from the lesser law of tithing? Has the time come for the church to declare a year of Jubilee where all debts are forgiven?
John Taylor in 1880 declared a year of Jubilee and forgave 1/2 of everyone's debt belonging to the Perpetual Immigration Fund.
If President Taylor could forgive 1/2 of everyone's debt when the Church was financially struggling, can we forgive 100% of everyone's debt now that the church is rich?
Is it time for a new beginning? I hope so. I am looking forward to a new heaven, and a new earth.
1. Tithing is a lesser law and, by its nature, is temporary. The "standing law" of tithing is "forever" in the sense the law of Moses was "forever." It is a standing law from God, which means it remains in force indefinitely until it is fulfilled, or repealed, or replaced.
2. President Joseph F. Smith promised in 1907 that the day would come when we would no longer be asked to pay tithing, as soon as the storehouse of God had sufficient funds to meet the needs of the Church. Today the Church has over $124 billion dollars invested in financial markets.
3. Jesus did NOT teach tithing to the New Testament Church or to the Nephite Church after his resurrection; He did NOT instruct them to observe the law of tithing.
4. So how did we end up with tithing in this dispensation? Because in 1838 the Church asked the Lord to tell them how much tithing they should pay. Seriously.
5. So the Lord answered the Church according to their desires, like He did to the Israelites in the Old Testament. "You wanna pay tithing? Really? Well, here ya go."
6. Tithing is NOT part of the law of the gospel.**
** The institutional payment of tithing today is akin to what the Israelites practiced in ancient times, and is not to be confused with what Abram did, giving tithes to Melchizedek, which is a story for another day.
7. D&C 119 described three reasons for the saints to pay tithing:
a. To build the Far West Temple (never happened); b. To lay the foundations of Zion (ditto); c. To pay the debts of the First Presidency (mission accomplished).
8. The Church has not been in debt since 1907.
Does Tithing Mean 10% of Our Income?
A synonym is "a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close."
What are some synonyms for "tax?" Well, according to thesaurus.com, some synonyms include "duty," "expense," "levy," "tariff," "assessment," "dues," "tribute," and . . . wait for it . . . "tithe."
What is the difference between a tax and a tithe? If we don't pay tax, they confiscate our home; if we don't pay tithes, they confiscate our temple recommend. Which is worse?
Now let's look at the official definition of tithing today. The Church says tithing is "a tenth of their 'increase,' or income, annually."
Now we have to decide if "increase" as used in D&C 119 is a synonym for "income." What do you think?
Witness: Edward Partridge
I call to the stand Edward Partridge.
Me: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
Partridge: "I do."
Me: What is your calling in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Partridge: "I am the bishop of Zion, or what you would call the Presiding Bishop of the Church."
Me: "And were you entrusted with the financial affairs of the church under Joseph Smith?"
Me: "Were you present on 8 July 1838 when Joseph dictated D&C 119?"
Partridge: "Well, it wasn't Section 119 back then. The revelation was received after the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants was published, so it didn't make it into the scriptures until 1844 as Section 107 (which was after I had passed on).
Me: "I see. But you are familiar with the contents of said revelation?"
Partridge: "Oh yes, very."
Me: "Good. Tell us, then, was the "one tenth of all their interest annually" referring to a person's income?"
Partridge: "Oh, heavens no!"
Me: "Please explain."
Partridge: "Well, the saints were to donate their surplus property and then, as I told Newel K. Whitney just two weeks after the revelation was given, 'to pay annually one tenth of all their interest. that is if a man is worth a $1000, the interest on that would be $60, and one/10. of the interest will be of course $6.— thus you see the plan.'” (Edward Partridge, Far West, MO, to Newel K. Whitney, Kirtland, OH, 24 July 1838, in Reynolds Cahoon, Far West, MO, to Newel K. Whitney, Kirtland, OH, 23 July 1838, CHL.)
Me: "Hold on. Why would interest on $1000 be $60, of which you only paid one-tenth, so $6.00 total on $1000?"
Partridge: "Because in 1838, the laws of Ohio and Missouri fixed the interest rate at six percent (6%). Everybody knew that." (See, footnote 7 on the Joseph Smith Paper's annotations of D&C 119.)
Me: "So you, and everyone else at the time, understood that "one tenth of your interest" was, actually, one-tenth of six percent, which is . . . "
Partridge: "0.006 percent."
Me: That can't be right. That would mean tithing on $100,000.00 would only be . . . "
Me: "That's a major difference! 0.10 vs. 0.006."
Partridge: "Why are you bringing up 0.10?"
Me: "Because that's what we are told to pay today as tithing."
Me: "Because on August 15, 1844, six weeks after Joseph died, Brigham Young and the Twelve issued an epistle stating members were required to pay 'a tenth of all their property and money . . . and then let them continue to pay in a tenth of their income from that time forth.'"
Partridge: " . . . "
Who Cares How Tithing Was Calculated in the Old Days?
Someone says, "So what? Yeah, they did things differently back in Joseph Smith's day. But we have modern prophets and apostles. And they've told us that tithing means ten percent of our income, period."
However, that question is speaking about the prophetic prerogative, which is a wholly different subject than the one we are currently addressing. So stay tuned.
Bishop Smith's wife called and asked him to pick up some organic kale for dinner on his way home from bishopric meeting.
He arrived at the grocery store and began to search for the organic kale before finally asking the produce clerk where he might find some.
The young clerk seemed confused by the bishop's request, so the bishop said: “Look, this kale is for my wife. All I need to know is whether it’s been sprayed with poisonous chemicals.”
The visibly horrified clerk replied, “No, bishop, you will have to do that yourself.”
He Who Dies With the Most Tithing . . . Wins
They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes. And tithing.
What is the "pure" law of tithing? The organic law of tithing? What does tithing look like after it's been washed clean of all the toxic pesticides?
Why Should We Care About Tithing?
How do we disentangle the law of tithing from the commandments of men and the traditions of men? How do we discern between true principles and changing practices?
I had my own experience with the widow's mite a few years ago. I sat in the living room of someone in their 70s. They were a single, faithful member of the church. And they asked me, "Tim, I don't know whether to pay tithing on my social security or not. What do you think?"
I looked at them and said, "Who cares what I think? Pray and ask the Lord what He thinks. And remember when you ask Him the kind of Father He is."
Overheard at Church
Person 1: I always paid on my gross income.
Person 2: Why?
Person 1: So I don't have to pay on social security.
Person 2: But didn't your employer also contribute to your social security? Their portion was not tithed.
Person 1: What are you getting at?
Person 2: Well, if you subtract the amount you paid over 40 years from the total amount, and then divide your portion to determine the percentage that your employer gave, and then calculate the rate of return you expect to receive from the government, then you can figure out how much you should be paying . . .
Person 1: Pound sand.
We Should Ask Ourselves (and if we're gutsy, the Lord)
In this Series, "Thou Hast Made an End of Tithing," we will look at the following questions:
1. Was tithing meant to be temporary?
2. Does tithing mean one-tenth of a person's income?
3. How can tithing be used as a tool of priestcraft?
4. What is tithing for?
1. Was Tithing Meant to be Temporary?
Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: Joseph F. Smith, the President of the Church, promised the members in General Conference in April 1907 that the day would come when we would stop paying tithing to the church.
When will we see the fulfillment of this prophecy?
Joseph F. Smith, April 1907:
"Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I want to live to see that day."
Does the Church Have "Sufficient in the Storehouse" to End Tithing?
The Church has at least $124 billion dollars invested in stocks and bonds, which generates enough income for the Church from interest (about $7 billion dollars) to cover all of the Church's budgetary needs annually. And it also has all of the land holdings and other business enterprises.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a member saying that paying tithing "is more of a sense of commitment than it is the church needing the money."
Wait a minute. If the church doesn't need the money . . .
Isn't Tithing a "Standing Law Unto Them Forever?"
D&C 119 says that tithing is a "standing law unto them forever." What does this mean?
Remember tithing is a "law." Not a commandment. It was revealed as, and remains, the Law of Tithing.
Let's think of another "law": the Law of Moses.
Should we all live the law of Moses today? Wasn't it supposed to last "forever," too?
The Lord said (speaking of the Passover):
Ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.
Christians do not observe the Passover because we take the Afikoman of the Lord's Supper instead.
But the Bible says "forever"!
Let's look at another verse:
The priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord's.
It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations.
Is a "perpetual statute" the same thing as a "standing law"?
So a bunch of believing Israelites, who believed the Law of Moses was going to last forever, must have been pretty irate when Jeremiah jumped up and exclaimed:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.
Nothing lasts forever that had a beginning.
The legal doctrine of "standing" refers to a person's ability to raise a claim in court. But the other use of "standing" is when an order is issued that remains in effect indefinitely. For example, the Utah Supreme Court issues "Standings Orders" that do not expire . . . until they do (when the Court repeals or replaces their Standing Orders).
So a "standing law" is one that remains in effect indefinitely . . . until the Lord repeals or replaces it, like He did with the Law of Moses.
Keeping Up with the Joneses
We don't want to obey an old law when the Lord has ordained a new one, right?
Well, the Lord does not change. And the laws of the Celestial Kingdom do not change. But was the Law of Moses the higher law? Was it a celestial law?
No. It was a lesser law. Jesus came and showed a more excellent way: the law of the gospel.
The Lord repeals and replaces lesser laws all the time.
Is tithing a law of the celestial kingdom? Or is it a "lesser law" like the Law of Moses?
Surprise! What if the law of tithing was given because of the hardness of the people's hearts, because they refused to obey the higher law?
What Is Greater than Tithing?
Is there a higher law above tithing?
Here's a good way to find out: what did Jesus do with tithing (that had been required under the law of Moses) after his resurrection?
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
(3 Nephi 9:19-20)
Imagine that! No more tithing. The Nephites had paid tithing under the law of Moses for hundreds of years and must have been shocked!
Instead of making an offering to the priests, they would offer their tithing instead to their High Priest, the tithing of their broken hearts and contrite spirits.
Did Post-3rd Nephi Nephites Pay Tithing?
Jesus did not give a law of tithing to the Nephites when he ministered to them in Person.
Instead, he said:
"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away" (3 Nephi 12:42).
"Old things are done away, and all things have become new" (3 Nephi 12:47). All things!
"When thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret; and thy father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (3 Nephi 13:3-4).
(Wow. There goes Tithing Settlement, folks!)
"And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly with another" (3 Nephi 26:19).
Hmmm. Does this give us a better picture of what the celestial law really requires? Not tithing as in "money." Something far more wonderful.
What Does D&C 119 Actually Say? D&C 119 leaves out the beginning of the original revelation as received by Joseph Smith. So we need to go to the original revelation to get the proper context, which really makes a huge difference.
Question: O Lord show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing?
Answer: 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,
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.
And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.
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
Notice the question! They were asking the wrong question, weren't they? They got the answer to the question they asked, sure, because the Lord responds to us based on what we ask and desire.
Are we so different from the ancient Israelites? They hardened their hearts. "Because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble" (Jacob 4:14).
I wish we could get into our T.A.R.D.I.S. and go back to 1838 and shout, "STOP!" I wish they had not asked the Lord about tithing, but about the higher law.
For I know that God granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life;
yea, I know that he alloteth unto men according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction.
What did the early church want? An answer about tithing. And that is what they got.
I can see Moses shaking his head. "Been there, done that."
So You've Got a Lesser Law . . . What Now?
Remember when Moses saw the people worshipping a golden calf, and gave them a lesser law instead of the greater one he had intended? Kind of like Joseph Smith on March 6, 1840 when he told the Iowa saints:
Joseph said that the Law of consecration could not be kept here, & that it was the will of the Lord that we should desist from trying to keep it, & if persisted in it would produce a perfect abortion, & that he assumed the whole responsibility of not keeping it until proposed by himself.
("Minutes and Discourse, 6 March 1840," p. 89, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 23, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minutes-and-discourse-6-march-1840/2).
If there was any doubt that tithing is a lesser law, we just have to look at the dozens of ways it has been practiced and preached throughout church history.
Tithing is like a skin suit that conforms to the shape of the wearer rather than to the stature of Christ.
Making the Best of a Mess
Now let's get back to Section 119. There were three problems tithing was intended to solve:
1. Finance the building of the Far West Temple (did not happen).
2. Laying the foundation of Zion (up for debate on whether that happened, but since I have not leased a basement bedroom in the New Jerusalem just yet, I am going to say, No).
3. Paying off the debts of the First Presidency. Hey, at least we can check this one off the list!
When Did the Church Get Out of Debt?
President Joseph F. Smith: "I want to say another thing to you, and I do so by way of congratulation, and that is, that we have, by the blessing of the Lord and the faithfulness of the Saints in paying their tithing, been able to pay off our bonded indebtedness. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes not a dollar that it cannot pay at once." April 1907, 77th General Conference.
When Will Joseph F. Smith's Prophecy be Fulfilled?
Over a hundred years ago, the President of the Church promised the members that one day we would stop paying tithing.
Can we expect the prophetic day has come at last?
Well, let's see.
1. The Church has had no debt for 113 years.
2. The Church, through the payment of tithing, has invested its surplus and we now have over $124 billion dollars which the church can comfortably live on.
3. There have been no announcements or plans (that I have heard of) to build the Far West temple on the dedicated temple site or to install sanitary water and sewer and roads or other necessary infrastructure for the New Jerusalem, thereby "laying the foundations" of Zion.
4. Even if there was a plan to build the temple and infrastructure, $124 billion dollars is more than sufficient to accomplish it. So what are we waiting for?
Narrator: Tithing was not always the mega-star we see today, headlining churches around the world with millions of subscribing fans.
No, the story of Tithing's climb to the top could have been ripped from the pages of a dime-store novel, full of intrigue, dark secrets and betrayal.
The rags-to-riches tale of Tithing began in poverty. Tithing was a poor thing, hanging around in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, hospital wards and orphanages.
But everything changed after Tithing was adopted by its very own "Daddy Warbucks." After that, it went through a drug-fueled period of self-discovery. It fell among a hard-partying crowd wearing silks and scarlets and all manner of precious clothing. A favorite of the paparazzi, Tithing was often seen with harlots hanging on both arms while spending money like it was going out of style.
Then one day Tithing realized it had lost its way. It felt miserable despite all of its gold and silver. Drowned in the popularity and stardom, would Tithing rediscover its true nature and humble roots? Could it ever give up the praise and adulation? Was Tithing set to make the comeback of the Millennium?
Stay tuned. THIS IS THE TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY . . . OF TITHING.
Moses: Yeah, I remember Tithing. Back in the day, before it became a big deal, I heard of it. Just something that Abraham had paid to Melchizedek, you know?
The thing that stands out to me was how Tithing was different back then. I guess fame can go to one's head, right? Because before Tithing had its big break, it used to be modest. Real modest.
Not many people remember the way Tithing used to be. I recall that Abram paid Tithes of all the riches that he possessed which God had given him, "more than that which he had need" (JST Gen. 14:39). No one talks about that last part nowadays.
Narrator: Tithing struggled with anonymity, scraping by on what was left over after people's needs had been met. It craved more. Would Moses help Tithing jump start its career?
Moses: No, Tithing did not make my Top Ten list. A lot of people ask me why I didn't include Tithing in the Ten Commandments. I just felt there were a lot of other things that were more important.
You gotta recall I was busy pioneering social justice to the Egyptians. Pharaoh was trying to kill me. And I had to figure out how to feed thousands of Israelites for forty years with more than just quail.
Tithing was not a priority.
Narrator: But all that was about to change. Tithing was about to make its first fortune, and religion would never be the same . . .
Moses: One day I introduced Tithing to my brother Aaron's sons and, boy, they really hit it off. No kidding, they were inseparable. And that is when a light bulb went off. I figured out a way to include Tithing in our group. I wrote it all down, somewhere. But here are three principles that were important:
1. Tithing was not intended to be a universal requirement.
Tithing was something for landowners (Deut. 14:22-26). You see, tithing was tied to the land we had received from the Lord. You paid from the abundance of your field based on what you could afford, whether turtle doves or bullocks.
It was not a tax for heaven's sake! I've been saying that for years. I tried to make this as clear as I could:
The Lord said to Moses, Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering.
You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.
(Exodus 25:1-2, NIV version) 2. Tithing was supposed to be given to (not taken from) the poor, widows, fatherless and strangers (Deut. 14:28-29).
I never wanted Tithing to be a burden. I mean, let's not forget that tithing was paid in kind; it was foodstuffs. Those who made the offering got to eat it with the priests and their families. So the giver and the receiver shared a feast. Tithing was like a potluck.
3. The priests had to pay Tithing themselves.
I never wanted those who collected Tithing to think they were any better than the rest of us. Sure, every band has its primadonnas. But to keep everybody on the same level, I told the Levites (who were fed by tithes) to pay a heave offering of 1/10 of what they received (Numbers 18:26).
Narrator: As Tithing catapulted to the top of the charts, who can forget that publicity train wreck caused by the sons of Eli? But over time Tithing settled into its steady gig as the tambourine player of The Law of Moses.
[Foreboding music in background] Would its happiness last? Was Tithing ready for its greatest challenge yet? Would Tithing survive the teachings of a carpenter's son from Nazareth?
Matthew: So I remember Jesus making fun of the way the Pharisees treated Tithing.
Paul: Yeah, Tithing did not like the way it was being talked about. At all. Jesus said the Jews were using it to "devour widows' houses," which of course they were. They couldn't handle the truth. What they were doing was just wrong. Plain wrong.
Matthew: Uh huh. The Pharisees were totally legalistic about it. They treated Tithing like a spiritual tax that reflected their righteousness, making a big show of how generous they were, blaring trumpets--
Paul: And you'd know a thing or two about taxes, right--
Matthew: [Laughing] Nice one. Seriously, though, Jesus told them that Tithing was not one of the "weightier matters of the law." Which made them mad because Jesus was telling them that Tithing was, like, one of the "lighter matters of the law." He was Tithing-Lite. It totally exposed their hypocrisy.
Paul: And didn't Jesus mention Tithing in his Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican?
Matthew: Exactly. That parable is one of my favorites, naturally.
Paul: The Pharisee was bragging to God, being like, "I fast twice a week and I give tithes of all that I possess."
Matthew: For all the good it did him. Paying Tithing did not justify him--
Paul: Because we are justified by grace through faith.
Matthew: [Nodding] So one time, Jesus made a big example of this widow who gave the temple treasury two pennies. It was all she had. I mean, she didn't even have money left over for food. Jesus looked at her, and you can imagine what he was thinking. She was a victim of a religious system that had twisted Tithing into this Jekyll-and-Hyde monster, taking something that was meant to bless her into something that oppressed her.
Paul: Exactly! I've spent my life trying to convince Christians that Tithing was "old law" and that we are no longer under the yoke of the Law of Moses anymore. Thank goodness. There's no flat tax, kiddos! There's no "minimum monthly payment" necessary to remain God's sons and daughters. I said:
Each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.
(1 Cor. 16:2, NIV version)
For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.
(2 Cor. 8:3, ESV version)
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Cor. 9:7, NIV version)
Matthew: That's the beauty of voluntary giving. Unfortunately, Tithing never seemed to learn the lesson. It got into a lot of fights. It made me sad, seeing how it would take something pure and holy and turn it into a cold obligation, as a means of self-righteousness and control.
Narrator: After Jesus destroyed the priestcraft of the Pharisees, Tithing fell upon hard times. It was down but not out. Would Tithing find better success among the Nephites in the New World? Would it find a foothold in the latter-days?
Mormon: Tithing never really fit in here. Sure, the Nephites lived the law of Moses (at least until Christ was resurrected and told them to S.T.O.P.). But otherwise we never did the whole one-tenth percentage thing.
King Noah: I think that is why Tithing got desperate. It came to me, asking for temp work. So I gave it a job, but I called it "Tribute" instead. Tax, Tribute, Tithing . . . what's the difference? I collected one-fifth of everybody's gold, silver, ziff, copper, and brass.
Mormon: [Shaking his head] Wasn't that a bit excessive?
King Noah: Hardly! I was a paragon compared to the King of the Lamanites who charged a Tribute of one-half of our gold, silver and precious things. Talk about a jerk.
Mormon: I still don't understand how you pulled it off, convincing people to pay your "Tribute."
King Noah: It was easy. I used a part of the Tribute I collected to build a fabulous Temple. And tower. And palace. But the important thing was for the people to know that sacrificing their hard-earned money was an act of faith and obedience, and the Temple was a symbol of that, which we built out of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass. It was a fine sanctuary. I made them pay Tribute for their own good. It was all for them, actually. They needed the blessings that come by sacrifice.
Mormon: Well, if you'd have listened to Abinadi--
King Noah: But I had a good thing going! Until Abinadi came, saying "Why do you set your hearts on riches? Why do you cause the people to commit sin?" How was I supposed to know he was a messenger from God when I was so busy running the church?
Mormon: Well, it got a lot worse after the collapse of the Nephite Zion. I mean, churches were being built up unto themselves to get gain, like yours, Noah, and they were lifted up in pride, wearing costly apparel and fine pearls, and persecuting the true followers of Christ--
King Noah: How did the churches go about "persecuting" the true believers?
Mormon: How did you persecute Abinadi? You punished him. The churches wanted money. And the true believers refused to play ball. So things got nasty and the wicked churches tried to "exercise power and authority over the disciples of Jesus who did tarry with them, and they did cast them into prison . . . and did seek to kill them . . . [but] the people did harden their hearts, for they were led by many priests and false prophets to build up many churches" (4 Nephi 1:30-34). Tithing got carried away in the spirit of sectarianism.
King Noah: Hey, whatever happened to Tithing, in the end?
Mormon: Oh, it did very well. Sadly, "they did still continue to build up churches unto themselves, and adorn them with all manner of precious things" (4 Nephi 1:41). All that was big business. And then it all went bankrupt at Cumorah.
King Noah: It's a shame.
Mormon: What is?
King Noah: All that Tithing . . . all the money, those gorgeous buildings and fine pearls . . . gone forever.
Narrator: And then came the bombshell exposé by the Wall Street Journal that shook the industry from top to bottom. Similar to the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, it was leaked that Tithing had been giving lip service over the previous decades. Could Tithing rise above the controversy? Was Tithing's career over?
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Mr. Snow, you are largely credited for pulling the church from the brink of financial ruin. How did you and Tithing do it?
Lorenzo Snow: Well, let's see. I guess my relationship with Tithing began on December 7, 1837, when Bishop Edward Partridge officially declared that members should pay 2% of their net worth, after deducting debts.
Brigham Young: [Interjecting] 2% was never going to cut it.
Lorenzo Snow: No, we needed more than that--
Brigham Young: Which is why I implemented a little Tithe we could call a "Membership Fee." Before baptism, or before immigrating to Deseret, a person had to donate 10% of their entire net worth to the church.
Lorenzo Snow: [Uncomfortably] Well, I did away with that particular Tithing practice.
Brigham Young: You WHAT?
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Mr. Young, isn't it true that you and the Twelve, on August 15, 1844, just weeks after Joseph Smith's death, did in fact institute a 10% 'Membership Fee' on all members and converts and then instructed them to pay an ongoing Tithe of 10% annually thereafter?
Brigham Young: Yes.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: And isn't it true that on January 29, 1845, you and the Twelve voted to exempt yourselves from the obligation to pay tithing?
Brigham Young: Yes.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: While, at the same time, you voted to pay yourselves a weekly salary without telling the members of the church?
Brigham Young: Yes.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: And isn't it true that you died a multi-millionaire?
Brigham Young: Yes.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: And yet, you said that no one, yourself included, ever lived the law of tithing as it had been revealed?
Brigham Young: That's right. (Deseret Evening News, 9 October 1875, p. 2)
Wall Street Journal Reporter: So what was the point of telling the people to pay Tithing if you and the church were not living it the way God had revealed it?
Brigham Young: As I've said before, I shall talk and act as I please. Spoken words are but wind, and when spoken are gone.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Now, Mr. Snow, what our readers want to know is why you made the payment of 10% Tithing a condition for entry into the Temple?
Lorenzo Snow: Well, in 1899 I went on tour. Tithing and I toured throughout Utah, and I linked the payment of Tithes with worthiness to enter the Temple, yes.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Going back to 1899. You said, "I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child . . . shall pay one tenth of their income as tithing." Is that right?
Lorenzo Snow: No, that's not exactly what I said--
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Really? Because I quoted it directly from your book, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, chapter 12 (2011).
Lorenzo Snow: Well, they must have edited my full statement. I don't know why. I actually said, "I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has means shall pay one tenth of their income as tithing."
Wall Street Journal Reporter: That makes a big difference to the overall meaning, doesn't it?
Lorenzo Snow: I think so.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: Now, do you consider the blessings of the Temple and its ordinances to be necessary for exaltation?
Lorenzo Snow: Absolutely.
Wall Street Journal Reporter: And yet, you charge an admission fee to the Temple, don't you? Is that comparable to the money changers that Jesus whipped out of the temple? Is that like selling the tokens of the temple for money?
Narrator: Tithing reinvented itself yet again by entering into its Heavy Metal Phase. (Or should we say, its Precious Metal Phase?) Its popularity continued to soar well into the Twenty First Century, as it had amassed a personal fortune of over $100 Billion Dollars.
And then it abruptly fell from grace in the year 2035 . . .
Narrator: In an address given by Kam L. Case in the April 2035 General Conference, the Windows of Heaven opened. Literally.
President Case: My dear brothers and sisters, we have been through much tribulation these past years. After the Independent Republic of Pocatello succeeded from the Union and joined forces with the star Wormwood, we have at last brokered peace. We must begin to rebuild our communities. Now, more than ever, we must pay Tithing as a sign of our great faith.
If paying Tithing means that you cannot pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying Tithing means that you cannot pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying Tithing means that you don't have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing--
Narrator: What happened next was voted the most Bodacious Event of the 21st Century by our viewers. The video has been replayed online on YouTube2 more than 1.5 trillion times and is the most viewed clip of all time.
Keanu Reeves: [Booming voice coming from above as an angel is seen slowly descending in a white robe.] Brother Case, my name is Celeritas, and I come from the presence of Michael, the Archangel, to deliver this message:
And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi.
Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?
I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar.
Should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.
Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(Malachi excerpts from chapters 1 to 3)
Narrator: Join us next time for the True Hollywood Story of . . . Fast Offerings.
Sometimes we think of "equality" like the salad bar at a buffet: something good for us, sure, but not nearly as tasty as the lasagna and fried chicken. And so we skip the salad for the main course.
But what if equality wasthe main course? Could it be that equality is not a nice-to-have "characteristic" of Zion, but is actually the thing that brings it about?
1. We know Zion is the Pure in Heart (D&C 97:21).
2. What if the way we become "pure in heart" is by learning to become "one" or equal with each other? Isn't that the education God sent us to earth to learn? We find ourselves stuffed in a sandbox filled with brutes and bullies and bosses -- and yet somehow we are supposed to learn how to become "one" with them by following Christ.
3. And what if the reason we choose to become equal is because we love each other?
4. Therefore, love leads to equality, and equality leads to purity of heart, and purity of heart leads to Zion.
Which of the following is more accurate:
A. Equality emerges from Zion; -or- B. Zion emerges from equality.
Two Schools of Belief
If you answered (A), then you probably believe in the "authority-paradigm" of Zion.
If you answered (B), then I would guess you believe in the "love-paradigm" of Zion.
Let's look first at the "authority paradigm of Zion." Those who view Zion as a construct of authority may hold the following beliefs:
1. Zion will be a community organized by leaders. It will be shaped by the vision of those serving at the top, who will tell the rest of us what we need to do in order to be "one."
2. Leaders will tell us when it is time to gather to Zion.
3. If we are deemed worthy by our leaders to gather to Zion, then they will assign us responsibilities and callings to fulfill in Zion (think of how a ward operates).
4. In Zion, the presiding authorities will be in charge and will manage the affairs of Zion (think of how the church operates).
5. Access to Zion's temple, and to the community resources gathered in the storehouse, will be administered by the leaders.
6. There will necessarily be a difference in status between people according to their rank or office, with those at the top having greater access to information, resources, and policy-making.
7. Those who value authority may view Zion as becoming "one" through leadership enforcing a set of standards which all must obey (conformity).
Does this vision of Zion sound familiar? It essentially replicates the world in which we now live, or a Telestial Kingdom.
But if Zion is simply The Church Version 2.0, then something is amiss. How does this match the vision of Zion we find in scripture?
Now let's look at the "love paradigm of Zion." Those who view Zion as a construct of love may hold the following beliefs:
1. Zion will be a community organized by those who love each other as Christ loves us.
2. This pure love will bring those desiring to live Christ's law together into fellowship, in the bands of friendship and truth, wherein they esteem each other as themselves. They become equals.
3. In Zion everyone will improve upon and apply the gifts and talents that God has given them to bless others as they are inspired by the Holy Ghost, freely imparting of the heavenly gift instead of quenching the Spirit.
4. All will be esteemed as brothers and sisters who govern themselves in love and equity.
5. Decisions are made selflessly by common consent, without envy or judgment. No one is forced or compelled. Everyone respects each other's agency.
6. Freely we have received and freely we share, both the light and knowledge we have gained, and our resources.
7. Those who value love may view Zion as becoming "one" through freedom and equality, cherishing the divine individuality in each person as all have an eye single to God's glory.
Does this sound like Christ's family? Which version of Zion would be more appealing to live in?
Which people would Christ prefer to dwell among?
Let's look at love in two different ways:
First, there is the feeling of benevolence and magnanimity we feel for all humankind. This is the love that shouts, "Peace on earth, good will towards men!"
It is the love we hear pronounced from the pulpit when someone says, "I love you all." It is the sympathy I feel at the grocery store when I see somebody bagging corn on the cob and their plastic bag breaks. Let's call this kind of love "General Love."
Second, there is a love that is shared with another person. This love is not general but specific. Our relationship with a friend, or child, or spouse, is something that doesn't exist elsewhere, but inheres to the bond between those in the relationship, who become precious to each other. Let's call this kind of love "Unique Love."
Differences Between General and Unique Love
The reason this is important is because General Love does not require anybody else to reciprocate. General Love is dispositional. It is a characteristic whereby we possess a universal, beautiful and one-sided love towards everyone, like the warmth of sunlight shed abroad upon our skin.
When someone says "I love you" with General Love, what they are really saying is, "I choose to be loving."
But Unique Love is different. I am not talking about romantic love (please don't get me started). If you are my beloved friend and you die, I cannot replace you. Sure, I can make other friends. And I can have a different Unique Love with each of them. But the Unique Love we shared is singular. It is a creation of our memories, our experiences, our personalities, our hopes, our time, and our selves.
In a universe of infinite diversity and possibility, the reality of our Unique Love is truly miraculous. It is a creation that only exists as a result of us loving each other.
Does God Love Us Generally or Uniquely?
God's disposition and nature is love. He desires the well-being of all his creatures and children. But more importantly, He also loves us Uniquely.
But why would God even bother to love us personally; after all, He has children without number, so why do we individually matter to Him? Does He really need me?
I can picture myself in the next life, as Christ takes me by the elbow and gives me an orientation of our heavenly home and says, “I would like you to be near me. I had my angels build you a mansion—this is all yours, because I love you.”
"Wow," I answer, surveying the celestial amenities, “Your angels did a great job. This is some widescreen TV—I can see all eternity on it!” And then I can imagine myself getting a pit in my stomach, wondering, “Wait a minute . . . . What did I ever do to deserve all this?”
Are we trying to earn God’s love? Do we want God to love us because we get good grades, bake brownies for our neighbor, and always pick up Fido's poo?
But how gauche would it be if, when we pass though the pearly gates, we took a bow?
As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that he does so, not because he is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable. Deep beneath remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own, attractiveness.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, London: Harcourt Brace & Co, 1960, 130-131)
When it comes to God’s love, do we want to take credit for it? "Love me because I am smart; because I have green eyes; because I make a mean linguine; because I bought you flowers; because I never jaywalked; because in third grade I apologized to Mrs. Miller for spilling her Coke on the students' homework . . ."
Does God mete out love based upon our performance?
Why Does God Love Us? At the root of our spiritual insecurity, I think we have to wonder, "Why does God love sinners? Why would He love us? Why?"
I'd like to propose a way of understanding theosis. 1. God is love; it is his nature. But love cannot exist in a vacuum. He needs someone to love. There can be no Unique Love without others to share it with.
2. God's creative power is intended to bring other beings, or intelligences, into a loving relationship with him. He seeks our immortality and eternal life, which is to say He wants us to be "one" with Him in this kind of Unique relationship.
3. There are at least three essential elements necessary for us to share divine love, or in other words, to become "one" with the Father and joint heirs with Christ in a celestial union:
A. Freedom. Persons must freely choose to love the other without compulsion or duress. Belonging to the relationship is completely voluntary. Love can only exist in an environment of liberty. Controlling others to preserve the relationship is like "curing the disease by killing the patient." When we force someone into a relationship against their will we call it "kidnapping."
B.Individuality. God's creative power invariably produces diversity. If everyone had one "mind," like the Borg on Star Trek, or the kind of "hive mind" that science fiction loves, then there would be no discovery of, or delight in, or space to love the "other." There must always be someone else to love or we would just end up loving ourselves.
C. Equality. Yes, really! We might love our dog, but a dog is not our equal, so the nature of our love is different than that shared with a more intelligent being (like our husbands . . . in some cases). While the Father loves us, as our intelligence (light and truth, or glory) increases, so does our ability to participate more fully in this relationship of Unique Love that God welcomes us into.
4. Therefore, receiving of God's "fullness" is related to how much we share His nature and become like Him. The end goal is to be made "equal in power, and in might, and dominion" (D&C 76:95).
5. In our present condition, we have to overcome those obstacles that prevent our entering into the kind of loving relationship that God desires. For example, I have not progressed to the point where I can perceive, reciprocate and dwell in the fullness of the Father's love. Yet. That is what we are here to learn.
6. How do we overcome these obstacles? Grace! Grace! And more grace! We have to grow by receiving grace for grace, and by continuing from grace to grace.
7. God's grace is what allows love to ripen as we freely choose Him over sin. Sin is whatever prevents us from being one, or equal, with Him and with each other.
8. As we change our desire for individual status at the expense of others, and instead seek to lift our brothers and sisters up at our own expense, we learn that the ultimate expression of love is to sacrifice our status, or what we deserve, on behalf of others who are less intelligent.
Is it blasphemy to think that God wants us share a Unique Love by becoming "one" with Him? Does that mean He wants us to be "equal" with Him?
Isn't this what got Jesus into hot water with the Jews?
I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
I want everyone to look carefully at how all these puzzle pieces come together in the Intercessory Prayer:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them [think: grace] that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Zion follows this pattern of loving, where we find freedom; where we preserve individuality; and where we choose equality.
Perfect In One
I want to focus on one little phrase: "perfect in one" (John 17:23).
The Lord attests that we are "made perfect in one." What does that mean? Does this mean we can only be perfect when we become one? With Them? With each other?
I want to suggest that God could not be perfect by Himself, alone. The perfection and godliness we seek is found only in a divine union. The Unique Love among the Godhead is essential to their nature.
Did Jesus show us how to become "perfect in one?" This might help:
And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.
And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
It seems like Jesus spent a lot of time trying to make his point about equality. One of my favorite parables is the parable of the laborers, which really hit the nail on the head.
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Spoiler Alert! Jesus means what he said. He actually wants to make us all equal.
I sense that we are stuck in the whale's belly, like Jonah.
I feel like we are just "hanging around" waiting for something to happen. For someone else to "do something."
Are we fleeing the call to equality?
Are we dreading bringing grace to those wicked Ninevites?
Are we running away from God because we prefer the shade of status over the beating sun of common consent?
Well, what happened to Jonah's gourd? When faced with the searing heat of God's light, the gourd (like the status and inequality we cling to) withered away.
God has called us. He has named us His stewards of grace. We are summoned to labor in the vineyard as "one." As equals. As brothers and sisters. And when we do, we shall witness the sun rise upon a new heaven and a new earth.