I am not concerned about our past. It is what it is.
I am not concerned about the way things are. They are what they are.
So what am I concerned about? Our future. The way things could be.
When President J. Reuben Clark called Matthew Cowley to be a mission president in New Zealand, he said: "Now kid, don't forget Rule Six."
"What is Rule Six?" Cowley asked.
"Don't take yourself too darn seriously," President Clark replied.
"What are the other five rules?"
"There aren't any," answered President Clark.
(Ensign, June 1974)
I remember reading a quote by President Thomas Monson that said something like, "Don't take yourself too seriously. Take your assignments seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously."
Have you noticed we often turn this advice on its head? Do we take our positions of leadership, our keys, our "authority," too seriously?
Do we expect people to respect and obey us because of the office we hold rather than the fruit we produce?
Let's call this sickness "Seriousitis."
It seems like we should take the gospel seriously. It seems like we should take being equal seriously, living by common consent, since it is a command from Christ. So why is it we take ourselves too seriously, and the gospel not seriously enough?
We see signs of Seriousitis everywhere. It shows itself when we draw attention to leaders rather than to Christ; when we garnish with praise the men and women who serve in leadership roles over that of our Savior; when we make the mantle to be greater than the Master; when we refer to "faithfulness to the Church" as synonymous with "faithfulness to the Lord" . . . in other words, when we set ourselves up for a light and standard to others.
Seriousitis is a symptom of idolatry. Seriousitis is a cancer in every hierarchy.
The picture above is a screen capture I took Sunday of a website my Stake created to broadcast Stake Conference. Because of coronavirus everyone streamed Stake Conference in their homes. I laughed out loud when I saw this disclaimer on the landing page:
"This website is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Yes, it said that. I think it reflects a common mentality of "headquarters vs. members," which is endemic of widespread disenfranchisement.
Have we officially entered The Twilight Zone, where a Stake of Zion is not affiliated with "The" Church?
I thought of Paul Toscana's zinger:
"This is not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Leaders. The leadership of the church is not the church . . . . The scripture says that the head should not say to the foot, 'I have no need of thee.' But this is . . . the message we get from how the church functions: leaders sit in council, preach in conference, lay down rules, while the members are there to soak it all up--and if we do this long enough and well enough, then perhaps we too, if we have been prudent and wise and male, may become leaders. But the church should not be divided this way . . . . [Christ] made himself equal to us, so that we could be made equal to him. The problem with us is that we are not equal." (Paul James Toscano, The Sanctity of Dissent, 1994: pages 63, 66).
What is the Church?
When did we begin to think of "the Church" as those who lead it? (Do we think of "the United States" as belonging to Donald Trump?)
What is the Church? Is it a community of believers? The Body of Christ? Those who follow the Lamb? Is it the Family of God?
Which do we want to be affiliated with?
Right and Really Right
Someone said (maybe Hugh Nibley?) that you couldn't hold him to anything he had written more than five years earlier. The idea being that, as we continue to grow in understanding, our old notions may become outdated or incorrect.
We may have cherished a belief in Santa Claus as a child, but we have to grow up and smell the roses someday.
We may have naively thought an hierarchical organization was compatible with a society of co-equal kings and queens who govern themselves by common consent . . . but we have to grow up someday.
Let's talk about what it means to be "right."
There are two kinds of people:
1. Sacred Cow People: People who know they're right and will defend their position from attack. These people look for answers so they can categorize the world into a binary-Right-and-Wrong-existence. These people are often authoritarian, inflexible, and apologists. They take themselves seriously.
2. Seekers: Seekers, on the other hand, know there is always greater light and knowledge awaiting honest seekers of truth. These people often embrace divergent thinking, ambiguity, and uncertainty, waiting upon the Lord to correct their imperfect and partial understanding.
Have you ever overheard two Sacred Cows debating a point? Yikes! They will talk past each other trying to convince the other they are wrong. You, as a seeker, can see merit in both sides of their argument. You are able to reconcile their views rather than arbitrating between them.
Think of a baseball field. Every person is playing their hardest. But everyone has a different perspective. Someone standing on third base has a different perspective than the batter or pitcher. Same game, different positions.
David Bokovoy said, "Apologetics assumes that we have the answers. Instead of allowing critical thinking to shape our relationship and understanding with divinity, apologetic defense may simply disguise a fear that God and the universe are much more complex than we would like to believe. It doesn’t take too much understanding of history to recognize that religious paradigms exist in a perpetual state of flux. Apologetics, therefore, may be evidence that we don’t really trust God’s ability to grant further light and knowledge. From this angle, failing to allow critical thinking to enhance our understanding of scripture creates a barrier to true faith."
(David Bokovoy, "Critical Studies vs. Apologetics," January 2015, at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidbokovoy/2015/01/critical-studies-versus-apologetics-my-own-personal-journey)
A Bible, A Bible!
Even when we are on the side of right, won't there always be a higher level of consciousness that is "more right?"
A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
The Bible is "right." But why would we settle for just the Bible?
Usually when I hear someone at church label something as "false doctrine," the thing they are condemning is not false doctrine to me.
Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible.
The only way a person could know if something was a false doctrine is to possess alltrue doctrine, and then use the process of elimination. Otherwise, our false doctrine may just be a true doctrine we haven't learned yet.
And nobody knows all truth (except Christ). So I guess there is one other way to know if something is false doctrine: when Christ tells you so.
I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another.
The worst thing in the world is trying to teach Third-Base-Truths to someone in the Dugout. Anyone who hasn't passed First Base will not understand the truths found in Second Base, and so on.
Joseph Smith said:
Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would call it blasphemy [false doctrine], and there are men upon this stand who would want to take my life.
(Quoted by Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball , 322)
Why listen to others if we already have the truth? Why dialogue with those who disagree with us but to convert them to our way of thinking? Well, is it possible our truth is incomplete and could be enlarged, expanded, increased, and enlightened?
The problem is no one, no group, no church, has "all" the truth. So my Tribe can only teach me the truths it knows; in order to get "more" we have to go outside our sandbox, humble enough to learn from other cultures and religions and peoples.
I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them.
When we find a pearl of great price, why would we keep searching for more? Well, what if there is treasure still out there -- something greater than just a single pearl? What if the Lord wanted us to collect enough for a necklace?
Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Shouldn't members of the church be the most open-minded people on the planet since we believe in an open cannon? Ongoing revelation? Gifts of the Spirit?
Will we seek for greater light and truth from unlikely sources? From the poor and downtrodden; from the sinful and shamed; from the outcasts and ridiculed? Of course! How else would the Lord be able to "yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" if we ignored His wedding guests? (Matt. 22:1-14)
We do not have all the answers. And the answers we cling to may just be the pearls that damn us.
Bitter and Sweet Fruit: Hierarchy vs. Common Consent
What does this have to do with Common Consent?
1. Hierarchies create echo-chambers where leaders council with each other and call the shots. (Have you noticed that leaders seem to talk more about members in their leadership meetings than they do talking directly with the members talked about?)
Where is the line between talking about people's struggles and needs and gossiping?
Common Consent is the opposite, where everyone is listened to. We talk to each other rather than about each other in confidential councils.
We don't exclude members from our councils, but all are welcome, even those who are different from us, who do not hold the high seats, or who disagree with us -- until we arrive at a unity of faith in love and respect.
2. In a Hierarchy, doctrine is established from the Top-Down ("Honey, where'd I misplace my keys?")
Common Consent allows us all to "teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you" (D&C 76:77-78). Instead of being talked at, we will be talked to.
The leaders do not establish doctrine. That would be heretical! Doctrine comes from God, and only God. And it comes from a variety of sources, through many messengers, even out of the mouths of babes.
The worth of a person's words will not be weighed by the calling they hold, but by the truth they impart.
I wrote in a previous post, "It is not the messenger that matters: it is the message; and in fact, the message proves whether or not the messenger is of God, not the other way around."
And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghostshall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
3. A Hierarchy gives power and control to leadership, who make the decisions and policies.
Common Consent, on the other hand, lets "one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege" (D&C 88:122).
4. Question: how do we prove we are right in a Hierarchy? By appealing to an authority figure to support our position. "So-and-So taught X, Y, and Z." (Umm, what happens when different leaders have given different opinions? I mean, we can quote Brigham Young on both sides of any issue.)
I am sure the Telestial Kingdom is filled with people playing the "My Prophet is Better than Your Prophet" game. Does this sound familiar:
And the glory of the telestial . . . are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
These are they who say they are some of one and some of another-- some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch.
Why, it's just like the world in which we now live!
Common Consent, though, recognizes only One authority: God.
So how do we discern God's will? Is God's will handed down to us like the check after dinner? Is it something leaked to the press that we learn about on the 10 o'clock news?
Or is it something we seek by gathering together, united in mighty prayer and fasting, counseling together and seeking the Lord; having skin-in-the-game, hungering and thirsting for God's love, wrestling angels and weeping on each other's shoulders.
We become one.
Or, you know, we could let the leaders do the heavy lifting and just do what they tell us.
Would you like someone else to talk to God for you?
Are you tired of receiving revelation for yourself?
Do you want others to decide where and how you should serve?
Wouldn't it be nice to have leaders manage your relationship with God?
Then you must be looking for someone to preach religion to you!
Call 1-800-GLD-CALF for your free in-home consultation. We will arrange all of your spiritual affairs in exchange for . . . your agency.
Maybe we don't really want to practice common consent. It seems like a hassle, doesn't it?
It would be so much work! It would mean we actually had to love each other. Common consent would require us to talk to each other, listen to each other, honor each other, care about each other, be equal, pray together . . .
It's easier to just have leadership tell us what they want.
Getting a Church Calling
Executive Secretary: Hi Brother Merrill, we'd like you to meet with the bishop this Sunday.
Me: Okay. What about?
Executive Secretary: I'm not supposed to tell you.
Me: The suspense will kill me. Am I getting a calling?
Executive Secretary: I can't say.
Me: Don't you know?
Executive Secretary: Yes. Fine, it is about a calling.
Me: Well, I'd like time to ponder and pray about it before I meet with the Bishop. Can you tell me what the calling is?
Executive Secretary: No. ___________________
Bishop's Counselor: Brother Merrill, nice to meet you. We'd like you to serve as a primary teacher. We think you will do a great job in this calling.
Me: Umm. I just moved into the ward last week. I have never talked to you or anyone in the bishopric before. How can you issue a calling to me without knowing me? Don't we need to counsel together first? Don't you want to know what my spiritual desires are, and then shouldn't we seek the Lord's will together?
Bishop's Counselor: No. We just need someone to teach the 6-year-olds.
Actually Heard in Church
Female Primary Teacher to Primary President: I will be fine teaching by myself today since my co-teacher is not here.
Primary President: No, you have to have two adults in each class. It's the Stake's policy.
Primary Teacher: You can check in periodically, if you'd like. But I don't need another adult to just 'sit in.'
Primary President: That's the rule! You can take it up with the Prophet if you disagree.
Worth Fighting For?
Is Common Consent worth fighting for?
The degree of liberty or tyranny in any government is in large degree a reflection of the relative determination of the subjects to be free and their willingness and ability to resist efforts to enslave them.
We scored an "A" in our AP class, "Exercising Authority Based On Rank and Office." Our teacher deserves some credit, Master Diotrephes.
I know, it's kinda unfortunate. Who wants high marks in a subject for which Satan wrote the textbook?
"Yeah, Mom and Dad, the principal says I'll make a fine hall monitor next year. At this rate, I may just make Class President and then I'll really be able to make a difference . . . once I am in charge."
I am afraid we did not pass our course in Common Consent. But it was just an elective course, right? It's not like it was part of the Core Curriculum (like "How To Properly Use An Asterisk on People's Permanent Membership Records" and "Proper Chapel Door Etiquette During the Sacrament").
Our School Motto is "Tendunt excolantes culicem, camelum autem glutientes." That is Latin for "Strain at a gnat, swallow a camel."
Our Common Consent professor, Mr. Smith, was a fair teacher, I guess. But we aren't really sure what that class was about because we were usually absent.
That's why we received an "Incomplete" in Common Consent. We liked to skip class and go smoke behind the bleachers, getting a buzz from inhaling our own superciliousness.
I think we left our mark on this school as upperclassmen. Future generations will be able to look up and see engraved on the underside of the bleachers our legacy: "Imperio Domini et Graeco!" (Gentile Lords RULE!)
(Did I mention this is a very prestigious, exclusive school? That's why everything is in Latin.)
Now we have to enroll in Summer School if we want to graduate (to Zion). Otherwise we'll be stuck repeating the Telestial Grade again.
And we do not want to retake Mrs. Beelzebub's Home Ec class, do we?
We have a problem, my friends. A big problem, like our-National-Debt-problem-big: something so vast we just want to ignore it. Pretend like it doesn't exist.
What is the problem? Common consent.
Problem No. 1:
We don't know what "common consent" is.
Wait . . . what?
Well, the Lord never defined it. He gave us the "key term" without explaining it.
So we'll need to figure out what common consent is, like good Sherlock Holmeses.
Problem No. 2:
Whatever we decide "common consent" is, I think we can safely say that we are not even close to living it today.
Problem No. 3:
If God commanded us to do "all things" by common consent in the Church, why don't we?
Do we expect to get any closer to Zion before we start doing things by common consent?
Problem No. 4:
It appears we got some repentin' to do, pardner.
Are we under condemnation? Well, let's see . . . over the past 200 years have we sought the Lord's will regarding "common consent," hungering and thirsting after further light and truth in order to obey, pleading with the Lord for greater understanding; or instead did we forge ahead anyway, guns-a-blazing, runnin' the church by the arm of flesh like priestly robber barons?
"No common consent? No problem, Tex. Here, mix together the managerial and social practices borrowed from business, culture, law, social science, and Babylon. Voila! We're in business, boys."
Common Consent is NOT . . .
Does Common Consent refer to just the mechanical sustaining of Church Officers?
Hmmmm. Let's look at what the scriptures say.
And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen.
This revelation was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery -- the First and Second Elders of the Church -- soon after the church was organized in July 1830.
First things first: Are we supposed to be following these words? Or are they just aspirational?
Does the Lord say, "All things may be done by common consent" or "All things shallbe done by common consent?"
It looks like common consent is the Prime Directive of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Let's break this down:
1. Do "all things" refer to just one thing? Or do "all things" mean all things?
2. If "things" are not done by common consent in the church, then what effect do those things have? Are policies, procedures, rules, and programs that are not "by common consent" void? Unenforceable? Of none effect?
3. Does "in my church" refer to everyone? The general leadership? Local leadership?
4. What is the relationship between "common consent" and "by much prayer and faith?" Is common consent just a rubber stamp, or does it require something more of us?
5. How is common consent a sign of faith? "For all things you shall receive by faith." Does that mean when we act without common consent, we are acting in non-faith, or unbelief?
6. If we ignore or reject these words of God, what are the consequences?
Could it be we are now living them?
Is It Time to Love One Another . . . For Real?
Is it time we learn to love each other as actual brothers and sisters? Because in the place of genuine love we find control and objectification, the antithesis of common consent.
What do I mean by "objectification?" This Series, "Done by Common Consent," will take a hard look at the difference between:
In this series "The Time of Harvest is Come," we are looking at the spiritual implications of the Law of the Harvest, and the challenge of expecting celestial fruits from a lesser law.
1. A common form of deception is to convince ourselves we're progressing along the straight and narrow path when in fact we're knee deep in the quicksand of a dead, or lesser, law.
2. Another of Satan's tricks is to get us to treat lesser laws as sacred cows (I'm looking at you, Home Teaching/Ministering). It's hard to let go of these sacred cows even though we know they are like leaking boats that cannot sail all the way to Zion.
3. The Law of the Harvest means we won't get 24 karat gold from a copper mine. Only following a celestial law will result in celestial blessings.
4. Christ is the embodiment of the celestial law: He is the Father, the Light, the Life and the Truth of the world. So following a lesser law than Christ's law of the gospel -- which is His celestial law of love -- is by nature Anti-Christ because it keeps us from experiencing a fulness of His intelligence (or glory), causing us to remain in gross darkness.
5. Muddling along in the gross darkness of lesser laws means we are in "bondage" and spiritual "captivity." In Christ we find freedom from the rules, regulations, rituals and legalism that Paul calls "the letter of the law."
6. Hello Phariseeism! Following lesser laws creates fertile ground for self-righteousness. We looked at several examples, including Tithing, Word of Wisdom, and Earrings.
Be Kind, Please Rewind
Soon after the VHS videocassette was introduced to the mass market in the late 1970s, my dad purchased an early model VCR for around $700.00. In today's dollars that would be about $2,200.00.
The VCR's remote control was attached to the unit with a cord. We thought it was so cool. This was cutting edge technology! We could watch movies AT HOME. And record Benson (and later ALF) on our TV.
We were in heaven. On the weekends, I'd go with my friends to the grocery store and rent a VHS tape and bring it home with pizzas.
Could life get any better than that?
They Don't Make VCRs Anymore
Well, they don't make VCRs anymore. That "cutting edge technology" is now obsolete.
We've progressed from VHS to LaserDisc, to DVD, to Blu-Ray, to 4K . . . (who knows what's next).
I guess that's progress. After all, we have more pixels, higher definition, better surround sound, bigger screens . . . . . . but I miss those carefree days of browsing for a VHS at the local grocery store with my friends.
Spiritual Laws Become Obsolete
Do spiritual laws become obsolete?
Well, does a 16-year-old have to sit in a car seat? Does our elementary school principal have authority over us after we've matriculated to high school (sorry Mrs. Bell, I can take a bathroom breaks whenever I want); does a piano player progress past Chopsticks (well, you've got me there)?
And as we progress, we leave behind the old rules, the old principals, the old laws . . . to something greater.
As we all know, the reason people become lawyers is because they can't do math.
We start by teaching a child to recognize numbers; then we learn to add and subtract; then to multiply and divide; then we begin to do algebra and geometry, sine and cosine (or, if you're a teenager buying a car, sign and co-sign); then we stumble through calculus; then . . . what's after calculus?
I think this is what Paul meant when he said:
For we know in part . . . But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
(1 Corinthians 13:9-13)
Deep Doctrine in Costco Food Court
Let's not make this complicated. I mean, this is a blog, not a dissertation. And if you are like me, you read blogs in the food court at Costco while eating a hot dog.
* Manager to Checkout 7 *
The Law of the Harvest is more than cause-and-effect; it is about creation and restoration.
Sometimes we talk about spiritual creation and physical creation like they're different things. But what if they weren't?
* Shoppers, we will be closing in 30 minutes *
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal.
What is the "power of my Spirit" referring to?
And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.
Are "grace" and "truth" physical? Are they spiritual? Is there a difference?
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.
* Number 59, your pizzas are ready for pickup *
Which turning of creation and/or restoration are we on?
The Law as Bully
Here's the problem: the law condemns. We need to be saved from the law! Why? Well, because we are law-breakers.
All of us.
And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also by the spiritual law they perish.
(2 Nephi 2:5)
In English and French and Russian and Spanish and Pig Latin (and other languages) we use words that are just sounds, just air passing through meaty lips, to describe transcendent realities.
So I am not concerned about the exact words. I want us to focus on the ideas.
There are words used to describe things that are uncreated. Things that exist because they just ARE. They are eternal and have always been, and always will be.
The curious thing about these things is that God did not, in fact, create them.
Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
So vote No to Creation Ex Nihilo.
Now, consider these "words" or "ideas" which describe something: INTELLIGENCE; TRUTH; SPIRIT; CREATION; LIGHT; LAW; LOVE; PRIESTHOOD; JEHOVAH. Try, for a moment, to think of these as one thing.
Okay, now pretend that we have no eyes to see the light; no hands to touch truth; no ears to listen to intelligence; no nose with which to smell Spirit; no tongue to taste love . . . imagine being without our senses; imagine being a Being without means to interact with the universe around us; without a way to influence or impact the world we live in -- to exist, in other words, without agency.
* Attention shoppers: there's a blue Honda with its lights on in the parking lot *
1. There is no existence without agency;
2. Agency requires a body to "act" and not to merely be acted upon;
3. Bodies are the means of Expression, or Logos (the Word); creation occurred by the Expression of Christ's body; redemption occurs by the Restoration of it.
4. Spiritual and physical bodies are both made up of "element." They are of same substance (see D&C 131:7-8). "The elements are eternal" (D&C 93:33);
5. Christ embodies truth and Spirit and light and love (literally). His Body, or Tabernacle, endows all creation because He is the "light that proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things" (D&C 88:12-13).
6. Christ is actually "in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever. And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things" (D&C 88:41-42).
7. Jesus is not just the Lawgiver; He is the Law itself.
Father Lehi explained: "And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon, wherefore, all things must have vanished away" (2 Nephi 2:13).
* Thank you sir, have a nice day *
The Farmer in the Dell
The point I am trying to make is this: the Law of the Harvest is not some cold, impersonal reality.
No, the Law of the Harvest is about Jesus's creative and redemptive (restorative) work.
1. A harvest requires a Sower who prepares and plants the field;
2. The Harvester (Christ) sows seed;
3. What are the seeds He sows?
4. In what field does He sow? What is the field?
By him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created.
5. Time passes and the field is ready for harvest.
6. Who harvests the crop?
7. What happens if the crop is bad? Does the farmer start over?
8. How many seasons must pass before the fruit is worthy of preservation?
What Am I Talking About?
The typical way we talk about the Law of the Harvest is:
If you sow the wind, you'll reap the whirlwind;
If you sow sin, you'll reap the wages of sin, which is death;
If you obey the Law of Tithing, you will find a fish on your way home for dinner.
Put in, cash out.
Hmmmm. What if the Law of the Harvest is something far greater?
What if we think of the Law of the Harvest from Christ's perspective?
What if you could only redeem what you had created? What if you could only become what you had redeemed? What if you could only create what you had become?
When Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to his children in the New World, the Nephites. After he told them that they didn't have to live the Law of Moses anymore, they couldn't believe it.
How could the Law of Moses be . . . done?
Jesus reassured them:
And Jesus said unto them: Marvel not that I said unto you that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.
Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given to Moses.
The law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfill the law; therefore, it hath an end.
(3 Nephi 15:2-5)
Like those Nephites, we have to decide whether to continue living a lesser law that has been fulfilled in Christ, which has ended; or whether to follow Christ.
Behold, I am the law and the light. Look unto me . . .
Behold, keep my commandments; And this is the law and the prophets.
(3 Nephi 15:9-10)
Okay. So we are beholden to no law but Christ; there are no commandments but His; and his prophets testify of this as His servants, pointing us to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.
Eulogy for A Law Fulfilled
Dear Tithing, thank you for being our schoolmaster. We can't believe you have passed away and are no longer with us. The stories we have told, the memories we have, the good we accomplished. . . we will always remember you.
We are grateful that you helped the First Presidency get out of debt by 1907. We are grateful you have paid for a lot of stuff.
Mostly, though, we are grateful that you served as a stepping stone towards Christ, pointing us towards something greater, something better.
As we follow Christ now, and turn towards Him, we shall treasure the lessons we learned from you.
Farewell, old friend.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This is not the end; it is only the beginning.
But old things must pass for new growth, in order for Christ to pour new wine into our souls.
We were never meant to take Tithing into Zion. Jesus has a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in store for us.
He is our Shepherd. Shall we try His way?
Shall we pursue equality through living the Lord's law of Common Consent?
Caution: Do not read the following before going to bed, as it may induce frightful nightmares in your sleep and haunt your waking dreams.
President J. Reuben Clark said:
Tithing never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours; it never pays taxes; it buys no food; it wears no clothes; it has no expense of living; it has neither weddings nor births nor deaths; it has no love, no sympathy; it is as hard and soulless as a granite cliff.
Tithing is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.
So much for the tithing we pay.
(President J. Reuben Clark, Conference Report, April 1938, pp. 102-103)
Interest in Tithing
Yes, I know. I replaced the original word "interest" in that quote with "tithing."
Same difference. After all, isn't tithing ten percent of a person's interest, annually?
Speaking of Interest . . .
Paul said the Law of Moses was "added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). We've seen the same thing with Tithing, where the Lord gave a lesser law because of the hardness of our hearts.
Once we are alive in Christ, though, we no longer need the lesser law.
The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Fun Fact: Under the Law of Moses, Jews were forbidden from charging interest to each other ("usury").
Since they couldn't earn interest from other Jews, they became money lenders to Gentiles. Nice loophole.
But wait a minute. Let this sink in: according to the lesser law, charging interest was wrong. And yet we do it all the time today. So . . . we're not even meeting the standard of the lesser law?
If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.
(Exodus 22:25, NASB)
I know people who charge interest to their own family. Their own flesh and blood! How did we get to this point?
If we're not even keeping the lesser law, how far have we fallen short of the gospel law?
Flour and Sugar
Jesus showed us the way to give, using an example right out of the kitchen:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Pretend your neighbor stops by and asks if they can borrow some flour. It must be Sunday and they can't go to the store. But they want to take brownies to a new family that just moved into the ward.
Us: Really? Couldn't you be prepared? You're always expecting me to bail you out, aren't you? You are something else, you know that?
Them: I'm sorry. I just thought, if you could spare a cup of flour . . .
Us: Fine! [we stomp into the kitchen and measure out about 2/3 cup of flour from a full 10 lbs. bag of Pillsbury Best.] Here you go. It's all I can give you. And be grateful I gave you this much! I hope you learn your lesson. [We toss the flour to them].
Them: Thank you.
Us: But I want to be paid back tomorrow! By 9:00 a.m. sharp, not a minute later. I want you to return my flour with interest. I want 2 full cups as repayment. It's the least you could do after interrupting my peace and quiet on the Sabbath.
[We shut the door, feeling satisfied that we've done them a favor.]
Flour Scene: Take Two
Now picture this exchange:
Us: Why come in, come in! Have a seat while I get you some flour. Would you like anything to drink? Do you need any help baking those brownies?
Them: That's too kind. I don't want to trouble you.
Us: No trouble at all. [Getting out our bucket of wheat, we grind the wheat freshly into fine flour using a hand mill.] How much would you like?
Them: Oh, a cup would be plenty.
Us: Nonsense! Have two or three. [We pack the flour, pressed down to make sure there are no air bubbles so they get as much as possible. The flour cascades down the sides as we keep pouring more and more on top.] Here you go.
Them: Thank you. I'll be sure to repay you as soon as I can get to the store . . .
Us: No, don't worry about that. You've helped me so many times, I've lost count. Oh, and I recall your little Jimmy loves my candied apples [wrapping a candy apple]. Take this and send him my best. What a dear boy he is.
Now let's re-read the Savior's words:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
There's a poem by Marguerite Stewart that I like, which captures the heart of the Savior's message:
When I went to the door, at the whisper of knocking, I saw Simeon Gantner’s daughter, Kathleen, standing There, in her shawl and her shame, sent to ask “Forgiveness Flour” for her bread. “Forgiveness Flour,” We call it in our corner. If one has erred, one Is sent to ask for flour of his neighbors. If they loan it To him, that means he can stay, but if they refuse, he had Best take himself off. I looked at Kathleen . . . What a jewel of a daughter, though not much like her Father, more’s the pity. “I’ll give you flour,” I Said, and went to measure it. Measuring was the rub. If I gave too much, neighbors would think I made sin Easy, but if I gave too little, they would label me “Close.” While I stood measuring, Joel, my husband Came in from the mill, a great bag of flour on his Shoulder, and seeing her there, shrinking in the Doorway, he tossed the bag at her feet. “Here, take All of it.” And so she had flour for many loaves, While I stood measuring.
(Marguerite Stewart, “Forgiveness Flour,” Religious Studies Center Newsletter 7, no. 3 (May 1993): 1)
Putting Usury on Trial
Opening Statement: Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, it is up to you to decide whether Tithing, as practiced and preached today as a percentage of one's income, is akin to usury. You must decide whether this practice violates the gospel law.
I call to the stand Mssr. Joseph Smith, Jr. Me: Gen. Smith, isn't it true that you are well acquainted with the Lord's promise to provide for his saints?
Me: And isn't it true that you, as Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a public discourse on October 15, 1843 on the Constitution and Temporal Economies?
J.S. Indeed, I did.
Me: And was it your opinion, sir, that this people should not "take usury for their money" as part of a righteous temporal economy? (History of the Church 6:58)
J.S. That is correct.
Me: And yet, didn't you also say that when we borrow something, we should return it with interest? (Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, p. 145).
J.S. That is correct.
Me: Isn't that a contradiction? Saying we should not charge interest, yet we should pay it?
J.S. There's no contradiction. That's the way the lender and the borrower can both show love to each other.
Me: Explain, please.
J.S. You see, because the lender loves the borrower, they give the money freely without asking for any interest. But the borrower is grateful to the lender, and as a token of his love, he will want to repay it with interest, if he is able.
Me: I had never thought of that.
J.S. That way the exchange stems from the goodwill of the parties, and not from a contractual obligation.
Me: But isn't it possible that the borrower will default, or repay the loan without interest?
Me: Then shouldn't the lender make it obligatory that the borrower repay with interest to ensure he is justly compensated?
J.S. Absolutely not. If you require the borrower to repay with interest, then how will the borrower be able to show his generosity and appreciation?
Me: So if I understand how this works, you believe that if I gave my neighbor $100.00, I should expect only $100.00 back?
J.S. No, that is not what the Lord taught. He said:
If ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest.
Me: So you are saying if I lend my neighbor $100.00, I should not expect them to repay me at all?!
J.S. No, that is not what I am saying; that is what the Lord is saying.
Me: Then I should never lend to anyone, if I cannot expect to be repaid.
J.S. That is your right, as is your right to go to hell, if you choose. But if you want to become a child of the Highest, you should not hold back.
Me: But this wouldn't work! Unless the borrower were honest, and returned what he had borrowed with interest.
J.S. If the borrower was able, yes.
Me: We do not live in a world of honest borrowers, sir.
J.S. Indeed. Nor honest lenders. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
Brother Hugh Nibley said:
"The most common way of taking advantage of another’s need is loaning money at interest, and this is strictly forbidden, though it is the cornerstone of our present-day economy (Deuteronomy 23:19).
"But even more effective is the iron law of wages, which forces a worker to accept the lowest possible pay form you because he is desperate for work—as long as his labor brings you a profit, you will continue to hire him; when it doesn’t, you let him go. And in all this, you pose as his benefactor. In a word, the right to life always supersedes the right to profit."
(Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, Deseret Book: 1989, p. 194).
Tithing as Interest
Obviously we're the borrower and God is the lender. And we can never pay him back (thanks for reminding us of that, King Benjamin).
So why would God, who tells us to not charge interest, or expect anything in return, command us to pay an obligatory percentage of our income in order to remain in full fellowship and good standing with the church in a pseudo-contractual relationship that implicates our temple privileges and ability to hold certain callings?
Well, he wouldn't.
God would only want us to give to Him out of pure love, with real intent; out of the gratitude and generosity of our hearts, if we're able. If we make something mandatory, we risk people giving out of duty rather than love.
And God wouldn't want the money for himself, would He? He would ask us to give it away to those who need it the most: the poor, needy, sick and naked; the widow and fatherless. Not to bureaucracy and bigger barns; not to stipends and slush funds; not to real estate investment trusts and revitalization efforts of commercial properties; not to corporate bailouts and whited sepulchers hewn from granite.
When did we lose our way?
Jumping the Shark
This is a time of refreshing, so let's refresh our knowledge of Common Consent (which may be the only thing that we haven't tried yet). Let's flee from the legalism of a lesser law and embrace the pure love of Christ as we become precious to each other.
Picture is Worth a Thousand Words If we anthropomorphized Tithing, here's what it might look like:
If we anthropomorphized free-will, loving alms given to those in need, this is how it might look:
Whose lunch table would you rather sit at?
Would you rather sit with the stylish, rich, popular and handsome Tithing (with his beautiful buildings and wool suits and silks and scarlets) . . .
. . . or with poor Lazarus whose only companions are sore-licking canines?
(No way we're taking our tater tots near those mutts.)
Jesus was always getting into trouble for hanging out with publicans, prostitutes, poor people, and lepers, wasn't he?
Well, have we been courting the wrong crowd for the past 200 years? Maybe casting our lots with Tithing, and trying to be "friends with the mammon of unrighteousness" (D&C 82:22) has gone too far.
I say, the time has come to un-friend mammon for good.
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
Fun Fact: The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is the only parable where Jesus gave someone a name. Was it a coincidence he chose the name Lazarus?
Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
(Luke 16:15, 19-31)
Wanna bet the rich man paid a full tithe?
Why Won't Tithing Work?
Now I want to look at why Tithing will never produce the fruits of the celestial law. Because Tithing is not the Lord's way.
Take a magnifying glass to the following scripture found in D&C 104:15-18--
And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
Woah, that's a lot of possessive pronouns. This short verse makes three propositions to set up the Lord's law:
1. The Lord has a specific purpose (and there is nothing that the Lord takes in his heart to do but what he will do it). The Lord means it. His purpose is His plan, his mission.
2. And what is the Lord's purpose? "To provide for my saints." There it is. The Lord's temporal law: to take care of the needs of his children. He is possessive of them, isn't he?
3. Everything in this world is His. The cattle upon the thousand hills are his. All our possessions are actually his possessions. So we are not "owners" but are merely stewards of whatever he places in our hands.
But it must needs be done in mine own way . . .
Okay, here we see that we cannot do this on our own. Capitalism won't work. Communism won't work. Consecration didn't work, did it?
Why? Because it was not done in the Lord's way.
And behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints . . .
Here it comes! The Lord is going to reveal his plan for providing for his saints.
And notice that we cannot change "the way" because the Lord has already "DECREED" it. Remember, "the decrees of God are unalterable" (Alma 41:8).
That the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
There it is. That's it! Just 13 words. The IRS Tax Code is over a million words long. The King James Bible is around 800,000 words.
But the Lord only needed a baker's dozen. (Perhaps it was his way of throwing in a little extra for "good measure.")
But how are the poor exalted? How are the rich made low?
Does Tithing Accomplish the Lord's Purpose?
Hmmm. So now we come to it, at last. Does tithing accomplish the Lord's purpose of providing for his saints?
Not at all.
The rich who pay tithing are still rich and do not make themselves "low."
The poor are still poor because tithing is not used to exalt them.
So it appears that tithing has not, and cannot, accomplish the Lord's purpose.
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
The Lord cannot force us to participate in his purpose because we have agency. And we have to ask ourselves, who wants to use their agency to become equal? To become one?
As "agents unto ourselves" we are not beholden to a government or a church that makes us, taxes us, guilts us, or threatens us, to give.
The Lord's way only works if we are filled with the Lord's love. The only giving that matters is that which brings us together into loving relationship.
Otherwise, this is what we end up with:
If a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
As opposed to the law of the gospel, which requires:
I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.
(D&C 38:25) Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?
Why do the rich cling to their money in gated estates? Is it because the rich are greedy?
Why do the poor envy the rich and blame them for their woes? Is it because the poor are greedy?
Because we're all greedy?
Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.
Does that last part remind us of the rich man in the Parable who wanted Lazarus to relieve his suffering, when in life he had done nothing to relieve Lazarus's?
Notice that it says "according to the law of my gospel" -- NOT "according to the law of tithing." Tithing is not part of the gospel law (see, New Testament; Book of Mormon; Zion . . . )
Problem: the rich believe their riches are their own. They believe they've earned that money and it is a result of their industry, hard work and intelligence.
Problem: the poor believe the riches of the rich are theirs. They believe they are victims of systemic injustice and inequality.
How does the Lord solve this problem?
Heeeello, Common Consent. So glad you could join us. (To be continued)
In this post I won't be giving an overview of the financial operations of the Church. For those interested in such things, I recommend D. Michael Quinn's trilogy The Mormon Hierarchy.
Instead, I hope to flesh out what the anatomy of Church finances should look like from the perspective of scripture.
Question: Can we apply Jesus's teachings about finances to His Church? (Sorry, that was a dumb question.)
What instructions has the Lord given about how His church should operate in the temporal realm?
Let's find out!
1. Amassing Wealth
Let's start with a softball question: Does the Lord want His church (i.e., the Body of Christ) to stockpile their riches in silos?
The Parable of the Rich Fool
The Parable of the Rich Fool is one of the greatest parables of all time. I mean, how often does Jesus call someone a "fool?"
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Here the rich fool had a bumper crop. No problem yet. But he didn't know what to do with all of that wealth. So he decided to store his assets in bigger "barns."
Why not use the surplus that God had blessed him with to help the poor?
Rubber Meets the Road
Okay, how should the church (i.e., Body of Christ) treat the following counsel given by Jesus:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
We see the same message again. Jesus must have really wanted to emphasize the foolishness of "laying up treasures" here on earth.
Why do we do it, anyway?
O Lord, I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.
(2 Nephi 4:34)
2. Paid Clergy and Functionaries
How should the Church (i.e. Body of Christ) financially support its spiritual shepherds?
Should we pay stipends or salaries to our leaders?
This one seems obvious, too. How often have we boasted that our church does not have a paid local clergy?
Well, if we think an unpaid clergy is commendable, why not apply the same principle to the general leadership, too? If a Bishop, Stake President and Area Authority can donate their time, why not general authorities?
The dangers of priestcraft increase as one climbs to the top. For example, if I were an Elders Quorum President and told people to not drink caffeinated beverages, I can do little harm. But if I am an apostle who tells your stake to not drink caffeinated beverages, then imagine the mischief I can cause.
Let's look at what the "most correct book" on earth has to say:
And Alma also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support. [i.e., they kept their day jobs, like Area Authority Seventies.]
And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.
(Mosiah 18:24, 26)
This principle -- of not having a paid, professional leadership -- was something Mormon emphasized over and over again.
And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God.
And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner;
and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
And thus they did establish the affairs of the church.
(Alma 1:26, 28)
In fact, even Korihor understood this. An Anti-Christ agreed it was wrong for church leaders to receive remuneration.
[Korihor said,] Ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
Well, in principle Korihor was right. But he was accusing the wrong people, because Alma took this charge very seriously.
Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people;
for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.
And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren.
Alma knew that priestcraft would be the spiritual ruin of a people.
In writing poetry, sometimes the words just pour out of me. Other times it is like wrestling a wet eel. My poem, Sign, which I wrote in the summer of 2019, was the latter:
Why do you glut yourselves on sheep walking with pinched shoulders and bowed heads, crying to you in your beds of ivory? How dare you prosper in this genius enterprise, slaying the fatted calf for yourselves. You keep the flock in the thrall of apricot authority gathered to barns locked with priestly seal, ensnaring little lambs with the caress of stainless promises while fleecing them with tarnished shears your velvet robes cannot conceal.
The word was never meant to steal. Flee the shepherd exercising lordship as a polished silver staff. Remember what Father Lehi taught: salvation is free─ there is nothing you can buy from me. I cannot redeem you.
How does one cheat a soul? Skim the cream with religion’s knife, blessing hungry souls with cleanness of teeth? There is always a cost lost lambs must pay or God will hew them down (you say) at the end. Why─ if they only knew sin is a figment for you to profit by!
A price will be paid but not by you. To restore our perfect frame God himself shall burn away our shame with scalding milk and blood-red honey.
You preach for money! I see no reason for faith where your pious shadow grows long in eventide. Unless you show me a sign. Alma
Wo to them who pervert the way of the Lord! Know this: the narrow way requires no money at all to follow Him who will be crucified. But the cost to keep your self- righteous pride? You will pay handsomely to enter the wide.
You make merchandise of the cross. But I will believe you are one of the humble few followers of that Christ you say will come only on this wise: show me a sign.
Will you be struck dumb when all around is proof? The planets testify and stars bear witness across the logos-sky of God shedding His love, undressing His face for you to behold if not for the beam in your eye!
Be done, and admit your crimes. Oppress the poor no more, else show me a sign!
Then Alma stretched forth his hand and cried with a mighty voice, saying:
How are true messengers known? See: I am no king-man. Did I make the judgment seat my throne? I bear no purse, carry no scrip: I hold sacred the sign of my apostleship.
With mine own hands I have labored for my support as God commands.
According to the Holy Order to which I am called I give you this sign:
As high priest I refused to take so much as a single senine.
Without Purse and Scrip
What does it mean for apostles to serve "without purse and scrip." I actually would prefer to be paid to travel and to preach if I were an apostle (true confession). But that is not what Jesus taught.
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
This is interesting. Apostles could leave their wallets at home. No need for credit cards.
The calling of an apostle is to:
(1) Cast out devils; (2) Cure diseases; (3) Preach the gospel; (4) Heal the sick; (5) Take nothing, neither scrip or money.
And [Jesus] said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing?
And they said, Nothing.
Wait a minute. How were Jesus's apostles supposed to survive without shoes or food or money?
Simple: On faith (in God) and charity (of those they served among).
Nephite Twelve Disciples
Well, maybe that was an anomaly. Did things change in the New World when Christ ministered to the Nephite Twelve Disciples?
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them:
Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people.
Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
(3 Nephi 13:25-26)
Well, that's 2-for-2. Latter-day Apostles
Okay, let's not worry just yet. Maybe the pattern has changed for the final dispensation. What did Christ say about modern apostles?
Therefore, let no man among you, for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry, from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom.
And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
Whoso receiveth you receiveth me; and the same will feed you, and clothe you, and give you money.
And he who feeds you, or clothes you, or gives you money, shall in nowise lose his reward.
And he that doeth not these things is not my disciple; by this you may know my disciples.
What a beautiful pattern! One that would bring us together in love and equality. This was one-on-one giving that would bind hearts together, not sterile institutional care where you draw a regular paycheck or pull down funds from an ATM with a golden credit card.
Some things require faith. For everything else, there's Mastercard.
3. Church Engaging in Business
How is the Church (i.e., Body of Christ) supposed to finance missionary work?
Well, let's see:
(1) We could try the way Alma did it;
(2) We could try the way Paul did it; or
(3) We could create a sugar empire and lobby congress for tariffs against our competitors, engage in corporate malfeasance and violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, get sued by the federal government, secure enormous amounts of debt from eastern banking syndicates and experience many sleepless nights worrying how to pay back the loans, spend a lot of time as board members fretting over stock share prices and insolvency, receive dividends and salaries for said board memberships, lobby congress for larger sugar subsidies, engage in corporate merger and acquisitions to increase our sugar portfolio, deal with unhappy suppliers who refuse to plant beets . . .
Or, you know, we could try Alma's and Paul's way.
What Would Jesus Say?
How many businesses did Jesus run? How many boards of directors did Jesus belong to? How many corporations was Jesus an officer of?
None. And what did Jesus say to Peter when Peter returned to the family business on the sea of Galilee after the resurrection?
"Don't you love me? What are you doing here among the fish? Feed my sheep!"
The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
The stress and moral concessions required by the business world are toxic. It is telestial. So bringing that culture, and the practices and methods of big business, into religion was really a masterstroke for Mahan.
Why does a church need so much money, anyway? All of its investments were originally seeded with tithing funds. So every penny a church has -- whether from investments or business interests or capital or return -- all stem from tithing.
I wonder what the prophet Jeremiah would say about all these worldly entanglements? Maybe Jeremiah would look at us, shaking his head, and say, "Nothing ever changes, does it?"
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.
And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Hmmm. Personally, I do not see how the holy trinity of Apple, Microsoft and Google will save us. But then, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin are a lot smarter than me.
Samuel the Lamanite
I love how the Nephites swore they would never persecute the prophets like their fathers . . . while in the very act of shooting arrows at a prophet.
Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?
Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?
And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them.
Both Jeremiah and Samuel mention how things get "slippery" when we set our hearts on the things of this world.
The business of the gospel is to save souls, not money.
Obviously the Lord loves a generous and cheerful giver. But should the church (i.e., Body of Christ) require, as a condition of full fellowship, its members to pay a set amount?
Let's see what the "most correct book" says:
And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.
And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.
The Take Away
In two verses we learn all we need to know about giving. It is like Mormon knew we would live in the Twitter-Age and had short attention spans.
(1) Giving was meant to be paid to the needy, naked souls: not to an institution;
(2) Giving was meant to be voluntary "of their own free will," not in exchange for fellowship privileges;
(3) Giving was based on the surplus a person possessed: the more you had, the more you gave, and vice versa; and
(4) The poor were not asked to give (which would kind of defeat the whole idea, right?).
Let's test these principles with this scripture:
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted.
So far so good. Let's go for broke, shall we?
If ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need-- I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing.
Tithing for Temples?
But what about building temples! We need tithing for that, right?
Well, no. The saints built the Kirtland Temple in 1833 - 1836 without tithing. It can be done.
So What is Tithing to be Used For?
The poor; The needy; The sick; The naked; The hungry; The imprisoned; The afflicted.
If we took the following words to heart from the Law of the Lord (i.e., Section 42), I think it sums it up well:
I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel.
And just in case we missed it, the Book of Mormon carries a major chip on its shoulder about siphoning away funds from the poor to build sanctuaries (i.e., chapels and temples).
Their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing.
(2 Nephi 28:12-13)
For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
Mammon Red Alert!
When we see the charitable contributions of a church going to the infrastructure, the bureaucracy, the management, the real estate, the buildings, the salaries, the marketing . . . instead of to the poor . . . then we may say, "I have witnessed Nephi's and Moroni's prophecy be fulfilled with mine own eyes."
How does a person rob God?
How do we rob God? Easy: by robbing the poor. By using charitable contributions for purposes other than to succor the poor and needy.
"Inasmuch as ye have [taken it away from] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have [taken it away from] me" (Matt. 25:40).
The Law of Gospel Giving among the Nephites was intended to support the poor -- not the church.
5. Common Consent
The principle of Common Consent is amazing! It is "The Fonz" of the Restoration because it is so cool.
So I'm going save Common Consent for its own post next time. Stay tuned! If we actually practiced Common Consent, we would see some happy days, indeed.
1. Have you ever said, "There's no such thing as 'free agency.' The scriptures call it 'moral agency.'"
2. Have you ever said, "It is not 'Book of Mormons.' It is 'Books of Mormon.'"
3. Have you ever said, "You should take the sacrament with the right hand."
4. Do you abstain from caffeinated beverages?
5. Have you ever thought, "Could I be the One Mighty and Strong mentioned in Section 85?"
Q1. Either term is acceptable. The scriptures only say "moral agency" once -- in Section 101 -- when discussing the Constitution of the United States. The normal scriptural term is just "agency."
Q2. Either term is acceptable. However, since The Book of Mormon is a title, you could also pluralize it by saying "copies of The Book of Mormon."
Q3. Either hand is fine. The Savior only forbade people from taking his flesh and blood "unworthily" (3 Nephi 18:29).
Q4. Either drinking caffeine or not drinking caffeine is fine.
Q5. If you are the One Mighty and Strong, good luck with that!
Whoops. Did I say this was a Personality Quiz? I meant to say this was a Pharisee Quiz.
How many of us were like Saul in a former life: full-blooded Pharisees? One does not come to understand the futility of the law until one has tried to keep it. And fallen short of the glory of God.
I remember on my mission getting into a friendly argument with the bishop over whether a high councilor could preside in Sacrament Meeting since he did not hold keys.
Yes, I was that guy.
My personal Road to Damascus has taught me that Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses so we would not be subject to a lesser law, which is just another form of "bondage."
This is the "freedom" we find in Christ -- freedom from the rules, regulations, rituals and legalism that Paul calls "the letter of the law."
Lehi equated freedom with exaltation. There's a connection! He said we "are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death" (2 Nephi 2:27).
So my question is: why in the world would we choose the captivity of a lesser law?
Well, if you throw in a free cookie . . .
A Word of Wisdom
The pull of the dark side . . . I mean, Phariseeism . . . is powerful.
Principles like tithing and the Word of Wisdom are "lesser laws." We have only to look at the preface of the Word of Wisdom (verses 1 thru 3 of Section 89, which were added by Joseph Smith) for proof -- the whole thing was "adapted to the capacity of the weak of the weakest of all saints" (D&C 89:3).
"Once You Start Down the Dark Path . . ."
The devil rejoices when we set our hearts upon lesser laws. Yeah, we usually think the devil is trying to get us to commit adultery or theft or violence . . . but getting us to commit to a lesser law is just as effective in halting our progression.
And in fact, the lesser laws (which are "better" than a life of crime) are the devil's real bread-and-butter. Why? Because when people "sin" they feel guilty and know they've done wrong; but when people embrace a lesser law they usually think they're doing good and are fine.
No wonder prostitutes enter heaven before Pharisees!
Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
Here's the worst part: when the devil gets us stuck on lesser laws, there will always be people who want to be "strong" saints, truer than true, a cut above, looking beyond the mark, who want to improve, refine and build upon the lesser law rather than seek the Lord and his higher law.
Oh, you want to keep the sabbath day holy, do you? Well, good sir, we can improve, refine, and build upon that:
- You can't tie a knot that lasts longer than a day.
- Do not walk further than half a mile.
- And you better not light a candle on the sabbath.
Years ago a woman I knew bore her testimony to me that vinegar was against the Word of Wisdom. I said, "What?" She went to her pantry and removed a bottle of vinegar (I'm still not sure what it was doing there). On the bottle it said it contained 0.05% alcohol.
How Firm a Foundation
The hallmark of Phariseeism is taking our brand of obedience and imposing it upon others.
I recall a member of the Stake Presidency visiting my elder's quorum for opening exercises a few years ago. We sang the first verse of a hymn and said a prayer. The member of the Stake Presidency stood up and admonished us that we should sing all the verses of a hymn if we loved the Lord.
I can't make this stuff up. I mean, have any of you heard a group of men sing first thing in the morning ACCAPELLA with no piano? Just a slow slog of guttural grunting. A funeral dirge has more life.
But okay, let's prolong our misery through all four verses. And "If You Could Hie to Kolob" is no longer on the rotation.
Guess what happened during opening exercises in the ensuing weeks? The music leader simply chose one-verse hymns.
That's the problem with the lesser law: it does not change our hearts and cannot produce the fruits of righteousness.
Flexing our Pharisaical Biceps
We become the standard. Our obedience becomes the example.
We bury Christ under handbooks and procedures; we quench the Spirit with our forms of godliness.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.
Have You Heard Something Like . . .
Imagine a person standing up in Fast and Testimony Meeting, saying, "I know God wants us to only eat whole grains. It is sinful to ingest bleached white flour. You shouldn't eat white bread because it'll make you sick. And if you are sick, it is probably because you're not obeying the Word of Wisdom. If we really want God's blessing, we must give up gluten entirely."
When Did God Say to Give Up Gluten?
Well, the Spirit might have said, to a person who has celiac disease, "Don't eat bread." They may have had a powerful revelation about it. But why should a person who has been personally prompted to give up gluten (due to their immune reaction) go forth and preach that everyone should do the same?
I Wish I Was Joking
As far-fetched as that gluten example sounds, how do we think the craziness over caffeine began?
Because of the interpolations of men. For example: "We know that cola drinks contain the drug caffeine. We know caffeine is not wholesome nor prudent for the use of our bodies. It is only sound judgment to conclude that cola drinks and any others that contain caffeine or other harmful ingredients should not be used." (New Era, "Is it Against Church Standards to Drink Cola Beverages?" October 1975.)
Hmmm. Let's take this "principle" to its logical conclusion. If the Word of Wisdom means we cannot eat anything "not wholesome nor prudent for the use of our bodies," then we are going to have to give up . . . pretty much everything.
Except kale and quinoa salads.
"During the intermission of a theatrical presentation, [President David O. McKay's] host offered to get refreshments. 'His hearing wasn’t very good, and I got right down in front of him and I said, ‘President McKay, what would you like to drink? All of our cups say Coca-Cola on them because of our arrangement with Coca-Cola Bottling, but we have root beer and we have orange and we have Seven-Up. What would you like to drink?’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what it says on the cup, as long as there is Coke in the cup.'" (Gregory Prince, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, p. 23)
Burning Instead of Beauty
Remember what happened after we were told to only wear one pair of earrings? How it spread like wildfire through our chapels and young women's meetings?
Here's the point: When an organization makes a public declaration of a rule or creates a policy, the members can't help judging each other by it. Irresistibly we form ranks as if we had been conscripted as "hall monitors" to make sure others follow the rule.
You know, like Hitler Youth, but with fewer swastikas.
I remember a story shared by Elder David A. Bednar in his talk, "Quick to Observe" (BYU Speeches, May 10, 2005):
"Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. This young man cared for the young woman very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. Now this relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.
"The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times."
Wheeeeeere do we begin here. There's a lot to unpack in this story. First, I think we can agree that this poor young woman dodged a bullet by not marrying this fellow. After all, the Savior called the Pharisees "children of hell" (Matt. 23:15).
Can you imagine their wedding day as they exchanged vows? "Dearest husband, thou art a true and fine Child of Hell. I shall follow you to the infernal pit until the day I die, which, being married to a Pharisee, will not come soon enough for me."
A disclaimer: I do not know this young man. I cannot judge his heart, neither would I want to. So let's pretend this was not a tragically true story, but was merely a 'made up' dilemma.
Look carefully at the story. Based on the few facts we're given, we know that he "cared" for a special young woman "very much," and wanted to get engaged. Hold on! Before you put a ring on it, check the rings in the ears.
Nowhere in the story does it say the couple discussed the earrings. Nowhere in the story does it say they counseled together. Nowhere in the story does it show the young man trying to become of "one heart" with the special lady.
Instead, the young man is characterized as waiting, watching, judging, keeping score to see if she was as righteous as he.
Well, we can safely conclude that this young man chose judgment over love, satisfying his pride over extending mercy.
Can we imagine Christ "breaking up" with us because we are imperfect?
This returned missionary was no Hosea, that's for sure! Hosea was told by God to marry a prostitute, so he did. He married Gomer. We don't know how many earrings Gomer had, though.
I wish we knew more about this young man. Like, did he donate regularly to the Perpetual Education Fund? Because President Hinckley spoke all the time about the PEF. It's easy to judge appearances while concealing our finances.
Let's see what we can learn from this story from Christ's life:
Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.
The Road Less Taken
We are given the choice between two different paths: between captivity and liberty, between damnation and eternal life:
1. We can choose to defend the way things are, becoming shining apologists for a lesser law, and thereby champion the status-quo, adding layers and restrictions and manmade traditions to hedge up the way; or
2. We can choose to seek the higher law, searching for a more excellent way, lifting our eyes to Christ.
Which road leads to Zion?
Which road leads to repentance and change?
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
(Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken)
The danger of clinging to lesser laws can be summed up in three quotes:
“Many men struggle to climb to reach the top of the ladder, only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall.”
"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."
"And they who remain shall . . . enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?" (D&C 88:32-33).
Disclaimer: The contents of this Post do not constitute an attempt to give financial or investment advice. Unless, you know, it relates to the gospel.
Chances are we have all heard of some version of the "Prosperity Gospel."
What exactly is the Prosperity Gospel? It's largely a belief that, in exchange for us giving money to our churches, God will bless us with more money , and better health, and lots of other stuff . . . but mainly more money.
The theory goes that the more generous we are in giving to our religion, the more generous God will be in giving us material wealth.
Quid Pro Quo, baby!
Interestingly, the Prosperity Theology has found its biggest support from the middle class, although it attracts many poor people, too. (I suppose if we had to choose between buying a lottery ticket or giving to our church, we might as well roll the dice on God, right? Or, as the Prosperity Gospel would say, "What's the difference?")
According to Wikipedia, "Prosperity churches place a strong emphasis on the importance of giving. Prosperity church leaders often claim that specific blessings can be exchanged for the money being donated to their ministry. While some prosperity churches have a reputation for manipulating and alienating the poor, many prosperity churches hold seminars on financial responsibility. Prosperity teachers often cultivate authoritarian organizations. (Wikipedia, excerpts from "Prosperity Theology," edited for clarity.) Recipe for Religious (i.e. Financial) Success
1. Take the Protestant Work Ethic; 2. Mix in a good amount of New Age Philosophy; 3. Add in a sprinkle of Bible verses; 4. Bake in an American pseudo-culture of Capitalism; 5. And voila! You have all the ingredients you need to preach the Good News of the Prosperity Gospel.
Pay to Play
In March 2019, the U.S. Federal Government indicted several rich celebrities for bribing ivy league universities to gain college admission for their children. It was called "Operation Varsity Blues."
The New York Times called the scandal "College Entry Fraud." The paper said, "A teenage girl who did not play soccer magically became a star soccer recruit at Yale. Cost to her parents: $1.2 million. . . . A student with no experience rowing won a spot on the U.S.C. crew team after a photograph of another person in a boat was submitted as evidence of her prowess. Her parents wired $200,000 into a special account." (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/us/college-admissions-cheating-scandal.html)
Heaven Entry Fraud
What about Heaven Entry Fraud ("H.E.F.")? Are the admission standards for Zion too steep for us?
After all, we may not be the brightest student, or a talented athlete, or living a life of sainthood. So can we buy our admission into Zion?
Under H.E.F., in exchange for a healthy amount of cash, our religions promise us:
Eat, drink and be merry; nevertheless, fear God-- he will justify in committing a little sin . . . and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
(2 Nephi 28:8)
Sure, H.E.F. artificially lowers the standards of the Sermon on the Mount, but we can still pat ourselves on the back as a member of the crew team!
A Protection Racket is a genius scheme: A group, or gang, promises to protect others who are vulnerable, for a regular "protection payment."
For example, let's say I live in a seedy New York neighborhood. A gang comes into my store and says, "Tim, there are a lot of bad guys out there. If you pay us $500 a month, we'll make sure they don't pick on you."
"What happens if I don't pay you the protection money?" I ask.
"Then we'll pick on you."
Well, darned if we do, and darned if we don't.
In many Islamic countries, conventional insurance is illegal. Why? Because Sharia law forbids gambling. And what is insurance but a form of gambling?
Christians, on the other hand, seem to love insurance. I mean, haven't we all heard that paying Tithing is our fire insurance?
Protection Money is like insurance . . . purchased at the business end of a pistol.
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.
Those words were given in 1831 -- seven years before D&C 119 gave the Law of Tithing in 1838. So we're not talking about that Tithing. Nobody was "paying tithing" in 1831.
So what does the Lord mean when He says it is "a day for the tithing of my people" if He was not referring to giving ten percent-or-whatever-percent-it-was-back-then?
It appears "tithing" has something to do with "sacrifice."
We need to look at the preceding verse for context. What kind of "tithe" does the Lord require?
For I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men.
How is it possible to "tithe" our hearts? Well, in the same year (1831) the Lord explained:
Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
So the sacrifice/tithing was not about money at all. It was about the heart.
Two years after the Lord gave Sections 64 and 59, he said:
Their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice-- yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command-- they are accepted of me.
Okay, so "a day of sacrifice, a day for the tithing of my people" would have been understood by the saints at the time as a requirement to sacrifice whatever the Lord commanded, which was a broken heart and contrite spirit. (Is there a reason to sacrifice what the Lord does not command?)
This agrees with what the Lord told the Nephites after his resurrection:
Your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away . . . . And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
(3 Nephi 9:19-20)
Tithing (as we know it) was not a "thing" until after 1844. So the next time you hear someone say paying tithing is "fire insurance," just know they are using the verse anachronistically.
A Testimonial of Tithing
Where does a testimony of tithing come from?
We've all heard testimonies about tithing at church, haven't we? Is there something similar about them all?
Let me see if I can reduce a testimony of tithing to its bare bones:
I had to choose between paying my tithing or paying my [fill in the blank]. I paid my tithing and was blessed by [fill in the blank]. I know the Lord blessed me because I paid my tithing.
Variations on a Theme
I don't pay tithing on what I earn; I pay tithing on what I want to earn.
I wish I paid $100,000 in tithing, because that would mean I earned one million dollars.
You wouldn't be struggling financially if you paid an honest tithe.
If you are stingy in giving your tithes, then the Lord will be stingy in giving you blessings.
Do we see anything problematic in those statements?
Have you ever heard someone teach tithing in a non-self-interested way? Is it possible our testimony of tithing may be placed in the wrong thing when we focus on what we get from paying tithing?
I know people frame it as a "faith" principle ("If I pay tithing, then God will take care of my needs"), but, like all legalistic principles, it ultimately becomes a question of faith in our own obedience rather than in Jesus Christ.
How the Pharisees loved tithing! The Jews were only required to tithe their foodstuffs under the law of Moses, but in Jesus's parable of the Pharisee and Publican, the wicked Pharisee bragged, "I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:12).
Do we see the point? The Pharisee in the parable was paying more tithing than the Law required (which made him feel really good). But God was not pleased with him at all.
Have we turned tithing into an infomercial for the Prosperity Gospel?
"Don't worry about how much you've donated because God gives a MONEY BACK GUARANTEE!"
"You will not find these blessings in any other religion, so ACT NOW! This is for a LIMITED TIME ONLY -- just until you die!"
"Are you tired of worrying about the Second Coming? Then send in your payment now and you will receive a FLAME RETARDANT WARRANTY!"
"If you pay RIGHT NOW we'll double the offer and throw in access to our full line of ordinances necessary for your EXALTATION!"
"BISHOP COUNSELORS are STANDING BY to receive your donation."
"BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! In exchange for easy monthly payments, you'll receive the satisfaction of knowing God APPROVES OF YOU and LOVES YOU!"
What Did Jesus Teach?
In a previous post I mentioned the principle of non-reciprocity. If we are recompensed for our sacrifice, then it was not a sacrifice. A real sacrifice seeks nothing in return.
But 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.
I confess, in all seriousness, that the way we preach and practice tithing today is amiss.
What if we applied the following words to the church's practice of tithing?
Destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred in the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.