Tithing (the practice of giving a tenth of one’s income), has been around since at least the time of Abraham (see Genesis 14:18-20). Ancient Israel was constantly reminded of the necessity to pay a tithe,
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).
On 8 July 1838, Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received a revelation now recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 119. In this revelation, the Lord revealed the law of tithing to the Church,
“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” (D&C 119:4). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ accept this revelation as a commandment and consecrate one tenth of their increase to the Church.
Funds received from tithing are regarded as sacred by the Church today as they were in the time of Ancient Israel “the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord” (Leviticus 27:32). Disposition of these sacred funds is governed by a revelation received on the same day as D&C 119:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that it [tithing] shall be disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen” (D&C 120).
As with every commandment, there are attendant promises and blessings. In Malachi, after reproving Ancient Israel for not paying tithing, the Lord said,
“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).
As always, paying tithing is a matter of faith. And that faith is two-fold. We know that all we have is given to us by the Lord, who as King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet, so eloquently said,
“…has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another” (Mosiah 2:21).
And if we acknowledge that, then giving back a tenth of what he has given us is a small thing. Even in hard economic times, because of the promised blessings, and perhaps especially then, we should make that leap of faith. The other part of that faith is that the money will be regarded as sacred and put to good use.
In addition to tithing, members of the Church of Jesus Christ have the opportunity to consecrate funds for various uses within the Church. First of these is Fast Offerings. Each month, usually the first Sunday, every member of the Church who can fasts for 2 meals and donates the cost of those two meals, or as much as they can. These fast offerings, equally sacred in the eyes of the Church and the Lord are designated for the poor and needy. Other destinations for offerings include the Perpetual Education Fund. This fund has been established to help members of the Church in communities throughout the world pay for an education they would not otherwise be able to afford. As they complete their education and embark on their careers, they repay the loan so that others may be educated.
What are Tithing Funds Used for?
Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in an address during the General Conference of the Church, reported on the use of tithing funds:
“The Lord has directed by revelation that the expenditure of his tithes will be directed by his servants, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric (see D&C 120). Those 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.”
Perhaps one of the most visible uses of those funds is for humanitarian service.
Humanitarian service—reaching out to the world at large in times of need— whether it be natural disasters such as the recent tsunami in Japan, helping children with medical problems, or providing wheelchairs, clean water, neonatal resuscitation training, and vision care in poorer countries, is a priority for the Church.
Wherever there is a major natural disaster, supplies are shipped out from Salt Lake City. Working with local leaders and other relief organizations, Church members in the area don yellow t-shirts bearing the “Helping Hands” logo and get to work.
In December 2004, a tsunami hit Indonesia. Elder Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles gave an account of the Church’s effort to help in that disasters,
“They first asked for 20,000 body bags. We located them in China and had them air-freighted to Jakarta. Not long after that, they asked for 30,000 more. Shortly thereafter, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, Dr. Gerrit Gong of Brigham Young University, and I traveled to Jakarta and then on to Banda Aceh which is on the north end of the island of Sumatra, vulnerable to the open ocean. We witnessed scenes words cannot describe. Over 200,000 were dead, families broken and dislocated, homes washed away. We saw one cemetery where 40,000 bodies had been buried. . . .The First Presidency called a special fast for funds to aid the victims of the tsunami. The money flowed in—several million dollars. Part of our purpose in traveling to Indonesia was to review the significant Church humanitarian relief to those hardest hit. The assistance began flowing immediately.”
This is just one example of the many ongoing humanitarian service initiatives that are partly funding by tithing and partly by other contributions from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.