Thomas S. Monson is the Mormon prophet. He often talks about how Mormons can enjoy all of God’s blessings through obedience to the commandments. The Bible promises us that obedience brings blessings. Tithing is one commandment many Christians ignore or don’t pay in full and yet it comes with powerful blessings, both from God and through what we learn by sacrificing.
Mormons do not pass a collection plate, so visitors are never asked for money. However, they do pay tithing. They get an envelope that is usually found near the office of the bishop (similar to a lay pastor) and place their check or cash in it. They fill out a form to identify who paid it and then hand it to the bishop or one of his two assistants. No one outside of leaders in charge of these things knows who did or did not pay it.
Why are Mormons willing to give up ten percent of their income when the average Christian donation is only four percent?
All of us can afford to pay tithing. In reality, none of us can afford not to pay tithing. The Lord will strengthen our resolve. He will open a way to comply.
May I share with you a letter I received some months ago which provides such an example? The letter begins:
“We live on the edge of a small town, and our neighbor uses our pasture for his cattle and as payment provides us with all the beef we want. Each time we get new meat, we have some of the present supply left over; and since we live in a student ward, we take meat to some students we feel might have use for some good beef.
“During the time my wife was serving in a Relief Society presidency, her secretary was a student’s wife—the mother of eight children. Her husband, Jack, had recently been called as ward clerk.
“My wife had always prayed to know which students might need our help with our excess meat. When she told me she felt we should give some meat to Jack and his family, I was very concerned that we might offend them. So was she. We both were worried because they were a very independent family.
“A few days later, my wife said she still felt we should take the meat to them, and I reluctantly agreed to go along. When we delivered the meat, my wife’s hands were actually shaking, and I was very nervous. The children opened the door, and when they heard why we were there, they began dancing around. The parents were reserved but pleasant. When we drove away, my wife and I both were so relieved and happy that they had accepted our gift.
“A few months later our friend Jack got up in testimony meeting and related the following. He said that all his life he had had a hard time paying tithing. With such a large family, they used all the money he made just to get by. When he became ward clerk, he saw all the other people paying tithing and felt he needed to also. He did so for a couple of months, and all was well. Then one month he had a problem. In his job, he completed work and was paid a few months later. He could see that the family was going to be far short of money. He and his wife decided to share the problem with their children. If they paid their tithing, they would run out of food on about the 20th of the month. If they didn’t pay their tithing, they could buy enough food to last until the next paycheck. Jack said he wanted to buy [the] food, but the children said they wanted to pay tithing—so Jack paid the tithing, and they all prayed.
“A few days after paying their tithing, we had shown up with our package of meat for them. With the meat, added to what they had, there was no problem having enough food until the next paycheck.
“There are so many lessons here for me—for instance, always listen to my wife—but for me the most important is that the prayers of people are almost always answered by the actions of others.” (Monson, Thomas S. ““Be Thou an Example”.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Oct. 1996.).
Tithing was instituted in ancient times to help pay the costs of running God’s church and to bring blessings to those willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Tithes are first mentioned in Genesis, showing they were instigated very early in the Earth’s history. In Genesis 14, Abraham is shown to be paying his tithes. In Genesis 28 Jacob is vowing to pay the tenth as well.
And this is the definition of tithing. A tithe is a tenth. Perhaps the best-known explanation of this commandment comes from Malachi, in the Old Testament:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10, King James Bible).
Mormon beliefs state that the tenth is one-tenth of your income. God gives us everything we have and asks only ten percent of it to do His work and Mormons consider this entirely fair and even generous. Without God, we would have nothing at all.
Even though it is God’s money to begin with, He promises us blessings if we will willingly pay our tithing. Malachi said we’d receive so many blessings we wouldn’t have room to receive it all. Some people misunderstand this scripture and think God will make them rich—returning their donation with monetary interest, so to speak. However, the scripture does not mention money. There are many types of blessings and the non-monetary blessings are usually far more valuable in the eternal scheme of things. A person who pays his tithing might be blessed with good health, with a happy family life, with secure employment, or simply with the joys that come from eternal life. A person who tithes will find he has enough—maybe not all he wants, but enough. One reason for this is:
“I bear witness—and I know that the witness I bear is true—that the men and the women who have been absolutely honest with God, who have paid their tithing, … God has given them wisdom whereby they have been able to utilize the remaining nine-tenths, and it has been of greater value to them, and they have accomplished more with it than they would if they had not been honest with the Lord” (Heber J. Grant in Conference Report, Apr. 1912, p. 30).
The tithing must be paid willingly and happily and be seen as a privilege, not a burden.
Tithing is used for a wide range of services. The Mormon Church is a lay church, so the bishops (ministers) and other workers are not being paid for their work. However, it costs money to run any organization. Buildings must be built, furnished, and maintained. They are heated, cooled, given running water and so forth. Mormons nearly all have callings, which are volunteer church jobs. They are instructed not to spend their own money on these, so supplies and travel must be reimbursed when purchased. A teacher of preschoolers, for instance, will need a lesson manual, which is provided, and then she may want crayons, paper, and other supplies to make the lessons more interesting. These materials are provided for the teacher, often in a bin each teacher picks up at the start of Primary. With the exception of a few special events, like summer camps, all activities are offered at no cost, so supplies are also needed to pay for official activities, including dances, parties, service projects, and outings for the youth.
A library is maintained in most buildings with audio-visual equipment, scriptures, reference materials, office supplies (which are often used by teachers and leaders in running a program) and photocopiers.
Tithing and other offerings are also used to assist in humanitarian efforts. LDS Charities provides humanitarian work worldwide to communities and individuals regardless of religion. These efforts include clean water initiatives, immunizations, neonatal care, wheelchairs, and emergency response. Within their own congregations, they provide food, utilities, and other temporary needs for church members who are encountering unexpected situations.
Tithing also helps to pay for the building and operation of Mormon temples. Because Mormon beliefs state that these are temples of the Lord, Mormons build the very nicest temples they can to demonstrate their love for the Savior—just as you would make the very nicest item if you were making something for something you loved. You’d use the best materials you could find and make it as lovely and perfect as possible. Mormons love Jesus Christ, so they build Him the finest gift they can. Inside the temples, they are giving the Savior another gift. The official Mormon website explains:
Temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred covenants with God. Because making covenants with God is such a solemn responsibility, individuals cannot enter the temple to receive their endowments or be sealed in marriage for eternity until they have fully prepared themselves and been members of the Church for at least a year. Throughout history, the Lord has commanded His people to build temples. The Church is working to build temples all over the world to make temple blessings more available for a greater number of Heavenly Father’s children.” (Temples, LDS.org)
The Mormons also run a serious education program which is paid for—all or in part depending on the program—by tithing. They have several universities with tuition much lower than most private universities due to tithing. Throughout the world, Institutes of Religion are operated for college students. These programs allow college students to include high-level religious training into their secular college education even if they can’t attend a Mormon school. At the high school level, teenagers attend a Seminary program before school each day and again, studying the scriptures in a more in-depth way than is possible in forty minutes of Sunday School. Over the course of four years of high school, they spend one year each on the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants/Church history.
There are many other programs that utilize tithing money. Mormons see tithing as a way to show their gratitude for God for the gifts He has given them and as a way to contribute to the many church programs that enrich their lives. They are glad they can participate in the building up of God’s kingdom.