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?