What are His temporal goals for us? And what is the process He uses to achieve them?
We read about that in D&C 104:
“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine”(verses 14&15).
In a part of the world where many are in poverty, how comforting it is to know that the Lord’s intent is that all of us are provided for.
However, in the very next verse (16), He gives us a clear warning: “But it must needs be done in mine own way….”
He then explains His way: He gives “every man his stewardship” (verse 11). Then He declares, “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” (verse 17).
So the Lord has blessed each of us with our little piece of this world and its goods. He considers our part to be our stewardship. We have been given our agency to use it wisely, and He will hold us accountable for what we do with it.
What should we do with what we receive? How do we use it wisely? What does He expect of us? How can He bless us?
Two things He has commanded us to do seem to be very important to Him. He taught them in Malachi 3 and repeated them to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 24. Listen to His words:
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation” (Malachi 3:8-9).
It is very easy to feel from these words how offended He is when we receive anything and do not pay our tithing first. We all know that tithing is one tenth of what we receive. If we receive ten, then as a wise steward, we first pay one in tithing.
Consider all that flows from that simple act of faith and obedience:
1. He generously blesses us: “I will open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (verse 10). Those blessings can be of all kinds—spiritual, temporal, physical, emotional, etc. (See Elder David A. Bednar, “The Windows of Heaven,” Oct, 2013, General Conference).
2. He rebukes the devil to keep him from thwarting our efforts to progress. “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 11).
3. He promises to bless our whole community, economy, and nation. “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 12). How would it be to have more jobs and a better economy in the area where we live?
These are some of the direct blessings the Lord can give us if we wisely choose to pay our tithing first on anything we receive. There are also collateral blessings. He can indirectly bless us for being full tithe payers:
1. As such, we meet one of the requirements for qualifying for a temple recommend. All the wonderful blessings, ordinances, and covenants of the temple are available only for worthy full tithe payers.
2. One of the requirements for a unit to qualify for a building in their area is that the members be “tithing faithful.” So another indirect blessing of our wisely choosing to pay tithing may be that we qualify for a meetinghouse.
3. Finally, priesthood leaders know that one of the requirements to create a new ward or stake in the Church is that a certain number of the active Melchizidek priesthood holders must be full tithe payers. They become the “roots” to give necessary strength to the “tree,” or the Church in that new unit (See Jacob 5:48).
What about offerings? As we learned above, the Lord expects His wise stewards to use part of whatever they receive to give offerings. We are expected to be generous. We can give to whatever worthy cause or people we choose (see D&C 58:27-28). But we are expected to live the law of the fast and to pay a fast offering of at least the cost of the meals we did not eat. If able, we can pay much more.
This is the Lord’s marvelous way of providing for the poor and the needy, and it allows Him to generously bless us (See Isaiah 58:6-12).
A collateral blessing is that helping others in need changes our hearts. It makes us more grateful. It helps us develop self-reliant hearts.
How important is this to the Lord and to our salvation? Returning to D&C 104:18, we read: “Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.”
He takes fast offerings very seriously.
The beautifully arranged thing about this is that we all can pay our full tithing and fast offerings. Even the poorest of the poor can do these because we only pay part of what we have. If we have received ten then we pay one in tithing. We only pay in the basic fast offering the cost of the meals we did not eat. Neither is something extra.
Another great promise we all have is the one taught throughout the Book of Mormon that if we keep the commandments of the Lord, we shall prosper in the land (See 1 Nephi 2:20).
I learned a lesson about tithing as a young missionary in Brazil. We taught a poor family. When we came to tithing, they reminded us that they were poor. Ten percent of what they received was a big part of what little they had to live on. They said that if they were rich it would be more money in tithing, but they would have a lot left over to live on. But they had the faith to pay their tithing and were baptized. Later we taught a very rich family. When we taught them the law of tithing, they reminded us that they were rich and that 10% of their income would be a lot of money to have to pay to the Church. They said that if they were poor it would not be a problem. The tithing would be so small, they wouldn’t even miss it. Fortunately they had the faith to pay tithing and were baptized. The lesson I learned is that we don’t pay tithing with money; we pay it with faith. Rich or poor, ten percent is ten percent. It is a matter of faith.
One danger is that we rationalize our way out of paying tithing and fast offerings. We think that because we don’t have a real job with a salary, we don’t have to pay tithing. We just do a little here or there and receive just a small amount, so we assume we don’t have to pay tithing. Or, we just receive a handout from someone, so we don’t have to pay. Whenever we receive any money, for whatever reason, we pay one tenth in tithing. Every month we fast and pay our fast offering. Even if we are unemployed, we pay tithing on what we received to live on. If we grow fruit, we sell one of each ten and pay our tithing. If we are self-employed, we pay tithing on what we take out to live on. That is how the Lord can bless us and our whole community.
The Lord’s ways are always better than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). This is His way for us to receive His blessings, to help the poor, and to become self-reliant. This is the word of the Lord for us in the Africa Southeast Area.