We recently had a question about the principle of tithing that I would like to address. As always, please remember that this site is not an official site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m just a Mormon sharing my perspective and trying to share information about our Church’s teachings, but for official info, you can look at lds.org or mormon.org.
I have a question about tithing…I understand (as told to me by a neighbor who is LDS) that if you do not pay your tithes to the church that you will be deemed unworthy and unable to attend until you pay them current. This seems harsh to me. If you are so poor you can barely afford to live or just don’t have that 10% to give to the church it doesn’t seem right that you will be cast out. I don’t believe that God/Jesus cares about money in that way and certainly would not turn his back on you. What is the church’s reasoning for this one please?
As noted, I cannot speak for the Church officially, but I will share a few thoughts on what we are taught and what we believe about tithing.
Paying a full tithe (which is defined at 10% of your increase) is, indeed, a requirement to be able to attend the temple. Members of the Church who do not pay tithing are not “cast out” of the Church itself, however. They are just not able to attend the temple. Even this can seem harsh at the outset, but perhaps understanding the principles behind it might help.
In fact, one of the things you said in your comment reflects some of those principles. Tithing really isn’t about money. While we do live in a fallen world and tithing funds are used to help pay for the building of church buildings and temples (among other things), in truth, the principle of tithing at the individual level is about faith, trust in God, and sacrifice.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (a former prophet and president of the Church) said this about tithing:
Tithing is not so much a matter of dollars as it is a matter of faith. It becomes a privilege and an opportunity, not a burden. Our people believe in the word of God as set forth in the book of Malachi, that the Lord will open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them (Malachi 3:8-10).
Tithing is actually an ancient law given by God. We do believe God cares about us giving a tithe. It is a way for us to temporally participate in God’s work, but also a way to “prove God” and see how He will bless us for living the law. One of the greatest blessings is the opportunity and privilege to participate in temple ordinances, where truths and spiritual power can be poured out upon us and our families.
Joseph Smith said this about the law of sacrifice, which underlies the principle of tithing:
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life” (Lectures on Faith, comp. N. B. Lundwall [Salt Lake City: N. B. Lundwall, n.d.], p. 58).
The principle of tithing is one that ultimately is best understood by living it. If one is only looking at life from a temporal point of view, tithing may seem unnecessary or even unfair. But from a spiritual point of view, it’s a way for us to acknowledge that all we have really comes from God. Our time, talents, material means — all we have — is given to us to then choose to “spend” according to our desires and priorities. And yes, sometimes it may mean facing fears or temporal concerns and trusting that somehow He will care for us. Story after story from those who choose to pay tithing show how such blessings can come. But again, many of the blessings of this law really do end up being spiritual.
For more stories and perspectives and teachings on tithing, see lds.org
The story of the Widow’s Mite from the New Testament also captures some of the spirit of sacrifice that can come of being willing to give of our temporal means for the work of God.