This week’s lesson is topical; it does not occur in chronological order of Church History events, but rather in connection with last week’s lesson on proper Sabbath Day observance. The revelation on tithing for these latter days was received after the Saints had left Kirtland and settled in Far West, Missouri, on July 8, 1838. It came in response to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s prayer: “O Lord! Show unto thy servant how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing”(D&C 119:headnote).
THE LAW OF TITHING
● Tithing is not a latter-day development. It has been required of God’s people in every age of the world.
— Abraham paid tithing to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18–20).
— Jacob promised tithing to the Lord (Genesis 28:20–22).
— Israel was commanded to pay tithing (Leviticus 27:30–34).
— Jesus affirmed the need to pay tithing (Luke 11:42).
— Jesus also affirmed tithing to the Nephites (3 Nephi 24:10).
The Basic Principles Behind Tithing
● The payment of tithing grows out of a recognition that all things belong to the Lord and that when we receive blessings from Him we are obligated to devote 10% of those blessings to the Lord’s kingdom and purposes upon this earth.
— The Apostle Paul reminded us that the earth is the Lord’s (1 Corinthians 10:26).
— The rich young man was perfect except in this matter (Luke 18:18–25).
— The earth is full; God provided every needful thing for His children (D&C 104:13–18).
— When we are selfish we forfeit His blessings (D&C 105:1–10).
— When we fail to pay tithing, we are “robbing God” of that which is rightfully His (Malachi 3:8–9; 3 Nephi 24:8–9; D&C 59:21; D&C 104:14).
President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“If the earth is the Lord’s, then we are merely tenants and owe our landlord an accounting. The scripture says: ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.’ What percentage of our increase do we pay Caesar? And what percent to God? . . .
“Would you steal a dollar from your friend? A tire from your neighbor’s car? Would you borrow a widow’s insurance money with no intent to pay? Do you rob banks? You are shocked at such suggestions. Then, would you rob your God, your Lord, who has made such generous arrangements with you?
“Do you have a right to appropriate the funds of your employer with which to pay your debts, to buy a car, to clothe your family, to feed your children, to build your home?
“Would you take from your neighbor’s funds to send your children to college or on a mission? Would you help relatives or friends with funds not your own? Some people get their standards mixed, their ideals out of line. Would you take tithes to pay your building fund or ward maintenance contribution? Would you supply gifts to the poor with someone else’s money? The Lord’s money?”1
The Law of Tithing Today
● The “beginning” of tithing is to provide all our “surplus” to the work of the Lord (D&C 119:1–3). This is the principle of consecration—to make “free-will offerings” or “contributions” from our available funds and also to give of our time and talents.
● After our free-will consecration, then we are commanded to pay a tithe (D&C 119:4–7). This is defined by the Lord as “one-tenth of our interest (income) annually” (v. 4).
The First Presidency gave the following definition of tithing, “The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this.”2
Joseph Fielding Smith said, “It is remarkable how many excuses can be made and interpretations given as to what constitutes the tenth. . . . It is written, however, that as we measure it shall be measured to us again. If we are stingy with the Lord, he may be stingy with us, or in other words, withhold his blessings.”3
● Tithing is an eternal principle, not a temporary one (v. 4).
● Tithing is an essential part of our worthiness (vv. 5–7).
Apostle John Wells said, “Tithing is a fundamental principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those who observe it fully there comes a deeper love of the gospel. It is just as essential to our growth and development in this Church as are repentance, baptism, or any other fundamental laws. It will develop in men and women a deeper devotion to the truth and greater willingness to serve their fellowmen; and, above all, it will increase their testimony of the gospel.”4
President Joseph F. Smith said, “By this principle the loyalty of the people of this Church shall be put to the test. By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. By this principle it shall be seen whose hearts are set on doing the will of God and keeping His commandments, thereby sanctifying the land of Zion unto God, and who are opposed to this principle and have cut themselves off from the blessings of Zion. There is a great deal of importance connected with this principle, for by it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful. In this respect it is as essential as faith in God, as repentance of sin, as baptism for the remission of sin, or as the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”5
● We are invited to the “prove” the Lord in this matter—to pay our tithing in faith and then see what He will do for us (v.10). Thus, we will gain a testimony of tithing only by actually paying it and then seeing what the Lord will do for us. Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “The payment of tithing has less to do with money, but more to do with faith.”6
Dallin H. Oaks said, “During World War II, my widowed mother supported her three young children on a schoolteacher’s salary that was meager. When I became conscious that we went without some desirable things because we didn’t have enough money, I asked my mother why she paid so much of her salary as tithing. I have never forgotten her, explanation: ‘Dallin, there might be some people who can get along without paying tithing, but we can’t. The Lord has chosen to take your father and leave me to raise you children. I cannot do that without the blessings of the Lord, and I obtain those blessings by paying an honest tithing. When I pay my tithing, I have the Lord’s promise that he will bless us, and we must have those blessings if we are to get along.'”7
● “Windows of heaven” means inspiration and revelation, not money (v. 10). We will be blessed with inspiration to know how to obtain our resources and use them wisely. And we will receive the Holy Spirit in our lives which will bless us in a myriad of ways each day—so many that there will “not be room enough to receive” them all.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Now, do not get me wrong. I am not here to say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the window of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on His work. The blessing to the giver is an ancillary return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit. . . .
“There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world. There is the great boon of health. The Lord has promised that he will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Malachi speaks of the fruits of our ground. May not that rebuke of the devourer apply to various of our personal efforts and concerns.
“There is the great blessing of wisdom, of knowledge, even hidden treasures of knowledge. We are promised that ours shall be a delightsome land if we will walk in obedience to this law. I can interpret the word land as people, and those who walk in obedience shall be a delightsome people. What a marvelous condition to be a delightsome people whom others would describe as blessed!”8
● “Rebuking the devourer” means protection from temporal destruction (v. 11). We can expect the Lord to keep us from being destroyed in temporal matters, though this does not suggest that we will never have difficulty. In these times of financial distress, this promise carries great comfort as we watch the world descend into financial chaos.
● “Vines casting fruit” has to do with the “fruits” of our efforts (v. 11). We can expect them to come at the right moment—not “before their time” nor “too late” to be of benefit. The timing of our blessings will be appropriate to our needs.
What Are Tithing Funds Used For?
Dallin H. Oaks said, “[Tithing] funds are spent to build and maintain temples and houses of worship, to conduct our worldwide missionary work, to translate and publish scriptures, to provide resources to redeem the dead, to fund religious education, and to support other Church purposes selected by the designated servants of the Lord.”9
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There has been laid upon the Church a tremendous responsibility. Tithing is the source of income for the Church to carry forward its mandated activities. The need is always greater than the availability. God help us to be faithful in observing this great principle which comes from him with his marvelous promise.”10
THE LAW OF THE FAST
Speaking of the Sabbath Day, the Lord said, “And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer (D&C 59:13–14).
● From this we can discern that fasting is not supposed to be dreary or hard thing, but one which brings us joy and rejoicing.
● We should also fast sincerely and privately, not for the praise of men. When we emphasize our fasting to others, or bear a “sad countenance” to make it obvious that we’re fasting, we “have our reward” and can expect no other blessing from the fast.(Matthew 6:16–18; D&C 10:5; 63:64; 88:119; 93:49; 3 Nephi 13:16–18).
Fasting Is Also An Ancient Commandment
Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Fasting we may well assume is a religious custom that has come down from the beginning of time, and always associated with prayer. There are numerous customs and practices that were given anciently about which the knowledge became so common that their origin has been lost in antiquity; therefore we cannot give time or place where the first commandment on fasting was given. It was common in the most ancient times, and there are numerous incidents recorded in the Old Testament indicating that it was well established not only among the true worshipers of Deity but also among the heathen nations. All of this indicates the antiquity of fasting, which we may presume was revealed to Adam.”11
Examples of Improper Fasting (Isaiah 58:1–5, 9).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We may obtain the understanding from the writings of Isaiah that fasting and prayer were commanded by the Lord. For their perversion of this doctrine, Isaiah rebukes Israel and endeavors to bring them back to the path of faithful obedience. . . . Israel . . . had perverted the fast and thus merited Isaiah’s and the Lord’s rebuke.”12 Isaiah mentions the following as being contrary to the spirit of the fast:
— With a complaining attitude (v. 3).
— While breaking the commandments and oppressing others (v. 4).
— Expecting our prayers to be heard despite our wickedness (v. 4).
— With a great show of pretended humility so that others will notice (v. 5).
— With vanity and the criticism of others (v. 9).
Examples of Proper Fasting (Isaiah 58:6–7,10,13).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Isaiah points out clearly the intent of the fast. It was observed with a contrite spirit, a humbled heart, before the Lord. Evil was to be forsaken, prayer and supplication offered with a covenant to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and let the oppressed go free. If they would do this, then, said the Lord, “shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.”13 Isaiah mentions the following as being necessary to a proper fast:
— Loose the bands of wickedness (Repent) (v. 6).
— Undo heavy burdens, etc (v. 6). (Help others).
— Provide food and shelter to those who are without these things (v. 7).
— Hide not thyself from thine own flesh (Spend time with family) (v. 7).
— Feed the hungry and give comfort to the afflicted (v.10).
— Keep the Sabbath day holy (v.13).
● One of the ways we accomplish this is by giving a generous fast offering. Fast offerings are first used to help those in the ward and stake where the members reside. Bishops may use these funds to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other life-sustaining aid to those in need.
Spencer W. Kimball said, “Sometimes we have been a bit penurious [unwilling to share] and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord. I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous .. . and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.”14
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Think . . . of what would happen if the principles of fast day and the fast offering were observed throughout the world. The hungry would be fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered. Our burden of taxes would be lightened. The giver would not suffer but would be blessed by his small abstinence. A new measure of concern and unselfishness would grow in the hearts of people everywhere.”15
Promises for Those Who Fast Properly (Isaiah 58:8–14).
Lastly, Isaiah mentions the blessings that will come from a righteous fast:
— Enlightened minds (v. 8).
— Good health (v. 8).
— Righteousness and the companionship of the Lord (v. 8).
— Our prayers will be answered (v. 9).
— Continual guidance from the Lord (v.11).
— Happiness “like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (v.11).
— Becoming part of the Kingdom of God and of His people (v.12).
— Receiving the blessings of Jacob (temple blessings) (v.14).
1. Faith Precedes the Miracle , 282–83, 289–290.
2. First Presidency letter, 19 Mar. 1970.
3. Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:92.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1926, 121.
5. In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, 47.
6. In Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 41; or Ensign, May 1990, 32.
7. In Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 43–44; or Ensign, May 1994, 33.
8. General Conference Address, April 1982, Ensign, May 1982, 40.
9. In Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 46; or Ensign, May 1994, 35.
10. General conference Address, April 1982, Ensign, May 1982, 41.
11. Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:88–90.
12. Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:88–90.
13. Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:88–90.
14. In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184.
15. In Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 73; or Ensign, May 1991, 52-53,