Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tithing Blasphemy

It happens sometimes as I’m sure it does with everyone when somebody says something we just know we’ll always remember. I only have two in the forefront of my mind at the moment, but one was my very faithful friend muttering to herself “I could pay my bills if it weren’t for tithing.”

How can she SAY that!?

I tried to tell myself it certainly wasn’t because there was any bit of truth to it. Nonono. It was because everyone knows that if you pay your tithing you’ll be able to pay your bills. That’s just how it works.

But I knew deep down her offhand, innocent (albeit frustrated) comment stung with truth. Sure she always seemed to make it somehow, but she had to go on government assistance to do so. What is the logic in that? Eric and I always had to go on government assistance and take money from our savings. Savings is supposed to be…well, savings. More times than not we couldn’t follow both admonitions of the church to save a little and pay tithing (not to mention the kid situation). Inevitably the money we’d place in savings each week would have to come back out so we could buy food.

And now? Forget it. We’re in a house now – for my sanity, mind you – so rent is more expensive, but as a first year teacher Eric is making just as much as he was before. I know we *could* move back into an apartment, but I’ve just spent the last seven years of my life in an apartment, six of them pregnant and/or with kids. Apartments are not for the faint of heart and I needed space. The kids needed space. We could never afford more than a two bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer, and with prices the way they were it just made more sense to get a house.

I assure you we lucked out finding the place we’re in now, but it’s still too much to have everything else in its proper tithing envelope.

Could we live in poverty and pay our tithing? Erm, maybe. But I don’t want to.

And before anyone gets up in arms about this, tithing was never, ever, ever an issue for me until this past six to twelve months. I moved out of my parents’ home working for an unstable retailer. Somehow I still made rent and had more money at the end of the month than my roomie who also paid tithing but loved to spend.

I attributed my success to tithing.

Then four years ago, Eric and I received what I still refuse to deny as a divine impression to have a third baby. We had no idea how we were to do this. The store he worked at announced promotions would be next to impossible to get and he probably wouldn’t receive any more pay raises. And we only had a little sedan, so we’d need a van for sure. And we’d have to move – I wouldn’t make it without our own washer and dryer. Ideally I wanted a third bedroom, but the laundry situation was horrific and it came down to one or the other and laundry won. This would mean a rent increase of at least one to two hundred dollars. Despite all of this, we decided to heed the revelation and toss birth control to the wind. I became pregnant.

Not too much later, we found if we applied for our very first school loan we could use that as a down payment for a car, so that’s what we did. We bought a van no problem. Then one of the head clerks at the store decided he didn’t want to be head clerk anymore, and since the boss really liked Eric she let him have the job. Two days a week and more if opportunity allowed, Eric was head clerk and made $6 more an hour - $9 more an hour on Sundays and holidays. Helloooo miracle!

Er...tithing.

Then came this past summer. Our struggles with the church had reached a point where we just didn’t go to church if we didn’t feel like it. We still paid tithing, but grudgingly. We stopped being so orthodox about it, paying it on absolutely every little thing – birthday money gifts, financial aid (we weren’t comfortable anymore with the fact that it’s illegal to do so). I couldn't stand having Abbie pay it. I don't know why - she didn't want to and I just felt horrible about it all. I really goofed up when I thought she should pay on her birthday money. That didn't seem right. Anyway, we still paid it on income though and considered knocking it down to net income rather than gross, but couldn’t bring ourselves to do that.

And yet, Eric still landed this amazing job here. We still found this great house with great rent.

(and yes, I am so knocking on wood. We’re told we’re okay job wise – he’s the only math teacher at his school with a single subject credential and math degree. That said, shit happens. God has a sense of humor and I can’t help but feel I am testing him here, though I’m unsure if this is learned superstition or not. I have much faith in life working out the way its supposed to)

When it came to moving to another city, we knew we’d be changing banks too. For a while we had our cash in two different places and all our tithing money…well, it was a mess. We decided to wait to pay until we got our cash situation figured out, but deep down in that place we call honesty, we really weren’t sure we wanted to pay.

I kept thinking of the scriptures which stated God cared about the heart, about the intention. Are you good to get your reward or good because you want to be good, because you are good? Do you pay your tithing with pure intention or because of obligation and/or blessings?

We were paying because we were scared not to. We felt obligated. Where it had never been an issue before, it was suddenly an issue. I told Eric I didn’t want to refuse to pay tithing because of money, and he agreed (we’d always been okay before), but that’s what we finally concluded. I thought about the many times we had to dip into savings. Had we always had savings? For the most part – there were scary times. But more and more it didn’t make sense to go on government assistance when we paid tithing. Really, tithing can make it impossible for some to be truly self-reliant. I *hated* WIC with a passion. It made little sense to me when there were people who needed it more than we did, people who didn’t have tithing to pay. It just felt wrong and embarrassing.

So, we stopped. I still worry about it, you know, losing blessings, but so far we’ve done well for ourselves. I don’t think God is going to abandon us, because we're trying. We're searching. The church is just fine without us (I mean c’mon, that mall they bought in 2005? The 2007 $1 billion downtown renovation project?). Tithing is not for God or his Church anymore. Neither need it. It's about faith, they say, and our faith was waning before our tithing was. I thought perhaps we should pay it if we were to continue attending church, but at the moment we’re not sure we want to for much longer. Our money in the meantime is going toward other causes as we can afford it.

That’s the other thing: Fast Offering. Why is it not okay for us to take what would be our fast offering and give it to a charity of our choice? Naw. No more of that. I appreciate what the church does but hate that it requires it to be the middleman. That doesn’t seem right. Once I wanted to help a friend – a single parent going to school – to buy her books. She fell on rough times, but I was told I couldn’t take my fast offering to do that. It killed because I couldn't help her otherwise. She was taken care of, sure, but the idea never truly sat right.

Anyway, life goes on. I worry and know perhaps later we’ll change our minds. Right now it’s not feasible to pay it, and trust me I know the arguments and I know how ridiculous it sounds to many members for me to say that. “How can you afford not to pay tithing?” is the common refrain. Hell, people, I’ve said it before.

But we can’t. Not without dipping into savings or going on assistance, and so we don’t. I don't advocate everyone neglecting to pay – please know this blog is not meant to be a pulpit – but for us this is what it is, and I’m okay with that.

It is interesting how life still goes on much as it did before, with things working out much as they’re working out for anybody else. It’s just not as scary. Living in fear just isn’t worth it to me anymore.

22 comments:

max everything said...

I've been wondering a lot about tithing lately. I'm a grad student and my wife and I live off of my departmental stipend and her small income. I don't really work for my stipend, but I do have to pay taxes on it. I resolved to pay tithing on it since it is the same amount that will earn two years from now when I start teaching and "earning" the money.
The problem is, with my school losing billions in endowment money, I don't think they want to see that I've given away a substantial amount of money in "religious donations". I have to submit a spending report for my financial aid (which I recently turned in) and it doesn't sit right with me that I'm asking for extra research money when I've given away more than that amount to the church. Not to mention the fact that we're struggling to pay off a lot of credit card debt from our recent move to the east coast.
I might have to start donating sperm to support my tithing habit.

belledame2 said...

I did some scriptural research on this. Read Doctrine and Covenants Section 119 and Genesis 14:39 (Joseph Smith Translation). From what I understand, what is referred to as interest in Section 119 refers to income today. Also see Deut. 14:22 which talks about increase.

belledame2 said...

This is a letter from the First Presidency in 1970 and as far as I'm aware, it's still part of the General Handbook of Instructions:

“What is a proper tithe? For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself 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. We feel that every member of the Church should be ENTITLED TO MAKE HIS OWN DECISION as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.” (Letter from the First Presidency, dated March 19, 1970).

Hope this helps you Lisa, along with the scripture references I gave earlier.

shannon j said...

I don’t really know you, but I look at your blog every once in a while.

I like the idea of donating a portion of my income to a good cause. I wish I could just donate my funds to the humanitarian aid or perpetual education instead of the tithing fund, or another cause of my choice.

My husband and I just decided not to donate anymore money to the church (well for the time being) after we heard the church spent almost $200,000 on Prop 8. If I want to donate my money to a political cause, I will. I certainly don’t want my tithing being spent on a political issue, especially one I don’t even agree with. Of course I am assuming the money spent was tithing funds, I don’t know that for sure.

Sheila said...

I happen to believe God would want you to take care of yourselves first, then help those you feel need your help.

I don't tithe, never have. I think it is ridiculous to take money out of savings to do so! Somehow I have been able to give more directly to groups and/or individuals as I have been better able to take care of myself and my family. All without unnecessary guilt.

Lisa said...

I like the idea of tithing after your "increase" and I know the Church says it's up to individual interpretation, buuuuut here's my issue:

1) In every ward and stake I've ever been in, I've been taught to pay tithing first. Before everything. That was faith. If I had enough faith, I would pay tithing first. Whether it was on gross or net income was up to me (who would know anyway?) but the key was this: Tithing first.

To follow that up, "On your increase" always seemed to me to be about increase in money. Period. Payday = increase.

Sure I could pay tithing after rent, bills, food, and other necessities but for argument's sake let's say I go see my bishop for tithing settlement this December. He pulls out our paperwork and asks us "Is this correct?"

We nod.

"Is this a full tithe?"

We nod. It is to us, at least. Gotta love those loopholes.

Still, though, he cocks his head. I can see the thoughts in his head. $500? For a whole year?

I'm not so sure that would fly. We like to think the church can be rather flexible, but I've yet to see much flexibility. Much. Some, but not much. It would depend on a lot of things, but tithing is rather huge.

max: I hope you figure it out. We were having similar issues on tithing. I kept reading the line stating we promised to not use this money on anything but school related expenditures. We could spend it on rent and food, etc. but tithing? No.

belle: Thank you for the scriptures and the line from the handbook. They are food for thought absolutely.

Shannon: Welcome, thanks for taking the time for a comment.

Yeah, I'm not sure. I don't think anyone can really be sure where the funds came from (but $2k sure turned into $200k awful fast, eh?), but they could easily say they paid with interest gained from their real estate ventures. Who the hell knows, but I hear you on this.

Sheila: So good to see you here! I agree. It is rather ridiculous - mostly because it's so counter-productive.

Steve M. said...

I just took a part time job as a research assistant that I frankly do not have time for. It has definitely occurred to me that whatever money I'll be making may only be enough to make up for the tithing check we write each month.

But at least "teh gays" can't marry anymore, right?

Maren said...

Hi Lisa,

I haven't commented on your posts lately because, well...frankly they hit home a little TOO close. So I just read and think no more of them. Lately, though, tithing has been on my mind.

I have always paid my tithing, that is, until the past 3 years. I have always felt guilty for it, but upon finally thinking long and hard, I had to ask myself why I was feeling guilty for not paying it. I had a temple recommend, but in all honesty, I'm not sure I'm going back anytime soon, if at all. So If I'm just paying my tithing to get my recommend that I don't have a desire to use, then WHY???

The final straw was after a long talk with our bishop. I showed him ON PAPER how we just couldn't pay our bills if we paid tithing. Blah blah blah...I know all the rhetoric and sunday school answers, and of couse I heard them again from him. I've heard them my whole entire life. So I go home and pay tithing, even though we don't have the money and WHAM! Overdraft. Not once, not twice, but three times. How embarrassing. So I stopped. Not until about 2 months ago have I finally let go of the guilt I was holding over myself.

Anyway, I appreciated your post.

Amanda said...

Jason wanted us and our kids to pay tithing on gift money, but I drew the line there. My family often uses money and gift certificates as presents because they aren't sure what to buy. They expect us to use that money to buy ourselves presents. it's the same as if they'd given us things instead of cash. It isn't EARNED income. We pay tithing on EARNED income (which is why the church says not to pay tithing on welfare checks, for example). I also wouldn't pay tithing on financial aid (they're loans!) or tax refunds (we already paid tithing on that money, since we pay 10% off the gross income). Also, if I was retired and living off social security and my retirement plans, I also wouldn't pay tithing on that, because I already did. Tithing came first, before SS and retirement stuff. To me, tithing was about earned income, and only earned income. It wasn't meant to be paid twice on the same set of money. It wasn't meant to be paid on gifts. Allowances, sure, because kids earn that money, but not gifts.

Mormon Heretic said...

Lisa,

I think you outline the conundrum well. I did a recent post about Using Fear, Pride and Greed to pay tithing, and I sure think it applies to your thinking on the subject.

Lisa said...

Maren: I totally understand, but I have missed you around and have wondered if you were doing ok.

It is an incredible guilt to overcome, but you have to take care of you.

Really, if a person is living in a ginormous house with four cars and a boat and you "can't afford tithing" than there's an issue.

I don't imagine many of us are in the gigantic house with four car box anyways. Faithful members always try to cut down; there just comes a point where you cannot cut down anymore, not without going into debt (if you aren't already so you could have those kids and pay tithing) and/or losing your mind.

Amanda: Oh, we never paid on our taxes - that's actually why we paid on gross. We knew our tax return was 100% OURS and it made us rather giddy :)

(though this does bring up another related topic: Claiming tithing funds on your taxes to get bigger refunds or credits. Does that seem right to anyone or am I nitpicking? It never seemed right to me)

We did pay on gift money for a LONG time, but eventually we came to the same conclusion you did: it's in lieu of a gift. Sometimes people gave us money for a TV (or recently to help us get a swingset for the kids). It's a "hey, go pick out something you like" We paid tithing on that stuff forever, but we came to our senses much like we did for financial aid.

Heretic: Ah! Good to see you here, welcome. I think I read that post some time ago - coulda sworn I commented, but I guess not. It is a rather interesting thing, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by.

Maren said...

Lisa, Thanks. I'm doing okay, but just in an antisocial funk ;)

I think there's a great topic in the GUILT we feel as LDS members. I have often heard of the Catholic church and guilt associations, but it seems the more I live and learn, the more I realize just how much GUILT (aka obligations) I feel as a member. And I'm not doing anything "bad" by the Church's books!

I'm just so amazed at the strong tie between the guilt we feel and our eternal "worthiness". If I'm not paying enough tithing, or going to the Temple enough, or attending EACH and every meeting, or decide to wear REAL underwear one day because my garments are all in the dirty clothes pile, am I going to ruin how I spend eternity with my family? Are my children going to suffer in eternal pain and we're going to be mere strangers because we didn't "make" it to the highest level in the C.K.???

I mean, for real. It's heavy. No wonder some ex members have to have therapy afterwards! I'd love to simplify my relationship with God and His son, but dang if all the small stuff doesn't get in the way!

Just some more thoughts I had...:)

Snowbunny in the City said...

Wow. You are liberal. TOTALLY KIDDING. I got that from Mr. Religious Blogger. I'm a liberal Mormon too, and you know what, sometimes it just isn't worth the guilt.
:)

Soxy Pirate said...

My eyeballs got as big as grapefruits when you said you actually paid tithing on financial aid...

I've got loans for graduate school which include money for tuition, expenses, and cost of living. I don't pay one single penny of tithing on it, nor do I think anyone ever should. Most forms of financial aid are in some form or another a loan. They pay me now and I pay them more in the future. This is not an increase, this is a debt; a burden, no different from a home or a car loan. I mean, technically they give me $5000 or so each semester to "live" off of (my wife works, too) and I can do pretty much anything I want with it.

But let's assume I actually paid tithing on my financial aid...

I got about $10,000 in loans for "living expenses" for graduate school...so I would owe about $1,000.

Plus, when I actually start earning money once I get a job I'd be paying back the loans with interest AND tithing on the money used to pay back the loans.

So, assuming a 10 year plan with around 7% interest, I'd be paying back about $115 per month with actual income (which would also be tithed)...In the end, the total loan amount paid would be over $13,000...leaving me with a $3,000 overall decrease.

In essence, paying $1000 in tithing for financial aid would place an addition 33% burden on me, when there was never any real "increase" to begin with!

No, thank you.

At the same time, I get about $400 a month for an assistantship, and I view that as an increase just like any other job, so I pay tithing on it as such.

--------------
Next, regarding "net" vs. "gross" payment of tithing.

I pay on gross income, and my wife pays net. I don't bother her about it and she doesn't bother me either. I think that's the idea behind the "personal choice" anyway...sort of how I don't bother her for drinking green tea occasionally. It doesn't necessarily conform to my own interpretation of the word of wisdom, but if she doesn't ask my opinion I shant offer it. That principle (I'll do it my way, you do it yours) is as integral to my belief system as the word of wisdom, too.

---------------
Now, to the point of wanting to be able to personally decide where contributions go without having the church decide that for you...

I understand this in theory, but in practice I believe that this is a smoke screen used to hide the fact that really we just want to keep that extra money to buy new clothes or go out to eat or gamble or do whatever it is we normally do with our money...Which is fine, in my opinion. I just prefer not to mask my unwillingness to pay fast offerings with high-minded lies about the great charities I'd rather be donating my money to.

BTW, if you care, my rule of thumb for fast offerings is a tenth of my tithing. Also, members are only asked to pay fast offerings if they can afford it.

--------------------
Now, regarding the dilemma between paying for bills/food/etc. vs paying tithing:

I think you probably know this, but the idea behind tithing isn't how much you give to the church (like you said, they don't need it) but rather, whether we're willing to make the sacrifices to pay it in the first place. I used to think this was just high-minded rhetoric used to make me feel guilty about not paying in order to get me to pay, but then when I started college I got Quicken.

Let's just say, when I saw detailed reports of exactly how I was spending my money ("did I really spend $30 at Applebee's? I hate that place!"), it became a little clearer that if I just put tithing a little higher up on my list of priorities (read: not necessarily "tithing first"), I'd be able to manage.

That being said, people who really have to decide between paying tithing and going hungry should obviously eat! Hopefully, there are enough people in the ward who are begrudgingly paying their fast offerings to even help that family out a little.

I just do not believe about 90% of the people who claim that they are really experiencing that dilemma. Perhaps the church should use some of our tithing money to buy us all our own version of Quicken!

------------
Last, just a few observations about tithing, offerings, and church welfare in general, not necessarily related to the post:

There is a woman I know whose husband just left her and her 3 children. She works full time and teaches voice lessons on the side. When she went to the Stake President (my dad) seeking financial assistance she insisted that church money would only be used to the necessities; food, water, rent, etc. She wouldn't feel right using the Lord's money to pay for the kids' dance/piano/art lessons or vacations or parties or presents or all of the other non-necessities she had already decided were too important to give up.

Yeah...no. The idea is for us to make all of the sacrifice FIRST and then come to the church as our last resort (I believe the handbook even says that families should exhaust all other options including government assistance before coming to the church).

Next, I'm glad that I can use tithing as a tax write-off;)

Last, in the grand scheme of things, I think the church uses our tithes and offerings for a lot more good than harm. Don't get me wrong, I'm as pissed that the Church spent so much money on Prop 8 as anyone (was it tithing money though?). I just think the "I'm not gonna pay tithing because look what they do with it" attitude is as misguided as the people who say "I'm not going to pay taxes because they'll use it to abort babies and employ Mexicans in gay-wedding chapels."

It seems like they can't see the forest for the trees...or just one or two of the trees in this case.

Wow, I might have a longer comment than the original post!

Lisa said...

Soxy: First I want you to know I respect you very much. I've had fun at Dissenting in Part :)

It might help to know that the financial aid I speak of (well, except for the one loan which I really do regret) was a grant. There is no interest or principal to pay back on that.

As for the fast offering thing, I know it's easy to assume that but you might want to take care because my husband and I *are* donating to charities right now in the amounts that equal our fast offering payment. Not everyone who wants to stop payment on fast offering is just looking for rationale to go buy themselves a new outfit, yanno?

And yes, members are asked to only donate what they can...kinda.

It's supposed to at least be equal to what two meals would cost. Now, if you want to be doubly blessed you donate more. The more the better. I've always been led to believe that we're asked (if not strongly encouraged. STRONGLY) to donate what would be the cost of those two missed meals.

And I'll agree with you: some of us - me included - spend more than we ought, and I always saw my family's ability to not spend as much as a blessing for paying tithing.

I mean, you're kinda forced to be more stringent with your money when 10% of it is suddenly gone. It's not a bad thing to sacrifice. It's just when you find yourself doing what you can (budgeting, etc) and still having to delve into savings to make up for everything.

There are many, many bishops who would disagree with your idea though that eating should come before tithing...ever. I've heard the story of the widow's mite so many times as to make my head spin. Tithing comes before everything. Faith preceedeth the miracle, so they say.

I can show anyone here that we cannot afford tithing on top of the things we need...you know, like rent and food. That's not a good enough reason for many. My husband is a first year teacher on an intern's salary. If he gets rehired next year *cross fingers* we'll be making more but not a hell of a lot more.

And I see your point regarding neglecting to tithe because of what the church may or may not be doing with it. For me, it was an afterthought. For me, neglect to tithe is more because I don't necessarily believe in the institution anymore. I'd rather give what I can to other places, and that's what we're doing.

The difference is that our giving is now because we want to. It wasnt' for so long. It was to get my recommend. It was because I feared the world would cave in if I didn't. It also gave me an excuse to not get out and personally help others "I'm tithing and giving fast offering." I'm not saying that last bit is something everyone says, but it was something I said to myself. That is changing now.

I also think it's good to exhaust all your resources before going to the Church. I am aware of that stipulation and agree with it. However, a family really does need a luxury or two. Really. Kids need to play sports with other kids. Some ice cream wouldn't kill. I believe it's essential to many who are killing themselves going to school and working for their families to have SOMETHING for themselves and their children.

I give now because I want to, not out of fear or obligation, but because I want to. That feels lots better.

Soxy Pirate said...


As for the fast offering thing, I know it's easy to assume that but you might want to take care because my husband and I *are* donating to charities right now in the amounts that equal our fast offering payment. Not everyone who wants to stop payment on fast offering is just looking for rationale to go buy themselves a new outfit, yanno?


Yes, I know. I didn't mean to direct this at you. It was just an observation based on the post and some of the comments. More power to you if you are donating to those charities.

As a matter of personal preference, donating to those charities is "good" but tithing, and in some sense fast offerings, are "essential." A personal obstacle that I'm trying to overcome involves learning not to make the "good" the enemy of the "essential." Usually this becomes a problem for me when I get to choose the "good" but the "essential" is already decided for me.

It's just when you find yourself doing what you can (budgeting, etc) and still having to delve into savings to make up for everything.

Again, this is personal preference. Saving money is "good" but paying tithing is "essential"...to me. I clearly understand the dilemma though. It seems counter intuitive sometimes, this notion that we should have big families and pay tithing on just one income! (BTW, my wife works...and she can continue to do so as long as she likes for all I care, whether I'm able to support us on one income alone or not.)

However, a family really does need a luxury or two. Really. Kids need to play sports with other kids. Some ice cream wouldn't kill. I believe it's essential to many who are killing themselves going to school and working for their families to have SOMETHING for themselves and their children.

I give now because I want to, not out of fear or obligation, but because I want to. That feels lots better.


Wonderful! Again, this all comes down to personal preferences. Personally, I would consider paying tithing begrudgingly as superior to not paying at all. As such, I'd prefer to call a spade a spade and come right out and say that those things (soccer practice, ice cream, donating to charities of my choice) are more important to me than paying tithing.

The economist in me really comes out when talking about matters of preference;) In avoiding much of the rhetoric and niceties in the storytelling I might offend a few, but at least people are clear!

Please know, I'm responding to your arguments, and I'm not trying to make any moral or spiritual justification for choosing my preferences over yours. However, under the assumption that both of us have our preferences because we ultimately believe them to be superior, I hope you won't view my comments as snobby, just as I don't view yours as such.

Stella said...

I am new to the mormon blogging world but LOVE your openness! Thank you for all of your insights. I will definitely keep an eye on your blog.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Good morning. Stumbled upon your blog and wanted to leave a comment. I am a Christian but not LDS; however, I do tithe to my church. It is frequently difficult especially now... my business has suffered due to the economy and we're living on substantially less than we are used to.
The scriptures that I read on this topic when I need encouragement are Malachi 3:10 and also Proverbs 3:9-10.

Also, on a MUCH lighter (and very humorous) note, the creative team at our church (12Stone) did a "Tithe Rap" ... you can find it on You Tube... just search on Tithe Rap. I can promise you'll laugh.

Peace & Blessings to you and your family!

Boquinha said...

I'm a recent stalker on here--love your blog (but shhhh, don't tell the readers on my blog, k?). I'm still a bit reserved about my, um, concerns. I'm getting there but not quite yet.

ANYWAY. Great, thought-provoking post. I have so many opinions on this but for now I thought you'd get a kick out of these links (they're from a woman's blog I follow online)--read them in order to fully appreciate the 2nd one. Offbeat but very, VERY cool (especially the 1st one). SO different than our Mormon norm:


Christmas Giving
Tithing Rap

OMIGOSH, HappyWifeHappyLife beat me to it!! WILD!! I had no idea she even READ this!!

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Boquinha! I'm touched - you're spreading the love of my church's corny and funny tithing video far and wide! :-)
(I can't believe it's had 68,000 hits....) :-)

Matt said...

Most people think the main tithing issue is an issue of gross or net. Recently I was praying over how to solve some of my own financial issues when the next day someone pointed out to me that there is really a good argument for surplus. I think the church's statement about being left up to the individual is so that they can work it out between yourself and the Lord without the local church leaders forcing their opinion on you. The only official doctrine is what is found in the scriptures and the general handbook of instructions/1970 first presidency letter. "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine". (http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/approaching-mormon-doctrine) . Income can me gross, net, or surplus. The scriptures that seem to indicate surplus include the JST of Genesis 14:39 and D&C 119:5.

If you read some of the statements and examples of early church leaders on this you realize that 1/10th of surplus after expenses is a valid interpretation.

“... He goes to work with the remaining ten thousand and gets him a farm and home, and enters into some other business, and makes not only a sufficiency for support, but finds at the year's end that he has made a thousand dollars: he has to pay one-tenth of that, that is a hundred dollars. This is really the meaning of the word Tithing." (Elder Orson Pratt, 1873, Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, pg 157, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Journal_of_Discourses/Volume_16/The_Manifestations_of_God%27s_Power,_in_Behalf_of_His_People_in_Modern_Times,_Are_Different_From_Those_of_Former_Ages,_etc.)



“Let us consider for a moment this word "surplus." What does it mean when applied to a man and his property? Surplus cannot mean that which is indispensably necessary for any given purpose, but what remains after supplying what is needed for that purpose. Is not the first and most necessary use of a man's property that he feed, clothe and provide a home for himself and family? ... was not "surplus property," that which was over and above a comfortable and necessary subsistence? ... Can we take any other view of it when we consider the circumstances under which it was given in Far West in July, 1838?

“I have been unable in studying this subject to find any other definition of the term surplus, as used in this revelation, than the one I have just given. I find that it was so understood and recorded by the Bishops and people in those days, as well as by the Prophet Joseph himself, who was unquestionably the ablest and best exponent of this revelation.” (Elder F. D. Richards, 1882, Journal of Discourses Vol. 23, pg 313, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Journal_of_Discourses/Volume_23/Tithes_and_Offerings,_etc.)

"The celestial law requires one-tenth part of all a man's substance which he possesses at the time he comes into the church, and one-tenth part of his annual increase ever after. If it requires all a man can earn to support himself and his family, he is not tithed at all. The celestial law does not take the mother's and children's bread, neither ought else which they really need for their comfort. The poor that have not of this world's goods to spare, but serve and honor God according to the best of their abilities in every other way, shall have a celestial crown in the Eternal Kingdom of our Father." (The Millennial Star Vol. 9, No. 1, Pg. 12, Jan. 1, 1847; Extract of a letter from L. N. Scovil. Orson Hyde, editor; Url: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/MStar&CISOPTR=849&REC=9 )

This seems the most fair way to do it so that people that barely have enough to live off of don't starve. Also, the many references to annual makes more sense as tithing on surplus than adding up every time I have income.

I am still studying and praying to work out what with the Lord what an honest tithe for me and my family, but I hope this helps.

Goblin said...

A most interesting discussion. Websters dictionary of 1828 defines increase in this context as "Any surplus advantage". There is no doubt in my mind that in the 19th and early 20th centuries the saints paid tithing on their surplus. If you're going to try this with your Bishop at the next tithing settlement, make sure you have all your facts together, and expect to be late home for lunch that day :)