Posts Tagged ‘Charity’


Wealth, Tithing and My View of “The Lord’s Financial System”

It is often said, among LDS faithful, that tithing is the “Lord’s Financial System,” or something that conveys the same meaning.  It’s seen as the way we build chapels and temples, finance the administrative functions in the Church (i.e. all that goes on inside the Church Office Building) and pay the bills required to keep all of it running.  There is, it goes without saying, a litany of things required to keep something with 14,000,000 members (approximately) running.

Further, it is argued that the church would simply cease to function if tithing – at least according to the official interpretation – ceased to roll into the church’s financial coffers.  Gordon Hinckley said as much when he argued that the income from the Church’s™ business interests would “keep the Church going for only a very short time.”[1] In this same speech, Hinckley stated that tithing was none other than the “Lord’s law of finance” and the epitome of “simplicity.”  Hinckley further contrasted the simplicity of the “law” of tithing with the “complexity” of our current income tax structure.  Men, Hinckley argues, derive unfathomably complex “laws of finance” while the Lord operates in simplicity.  I actually tend to agree with his argument regarding simplicity, though not for the reasons he asserts.  But, perhaps one should wonder whether our modern day interpretation of tithing is accurate.  I’ll get to that later.

Elsewhere, other church leaders affectionately refer to tithing as “the best investment,” arguing that “if you always pay an honest tithing, the Lord will bless you.  It will be the best investment you will ever make.”[2] Ignore that grammar, focus on the conclusion you draw from that statement.  An investment is nothing more than money laid out with the expectation of profit.  If we apply that logic to the gospel, then we’re left with the conclusion that we invest tithing [money] with the expectation that the “windows of heaven”[3] will be open and we’ll be blessed [profit].

The Promised Land that Isn’t

In a commencement address to BYU graduates this past summer, Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy stated the following:

“You who graduate today stand on your own riverbank or your own ocean shore, on the edge of your futures. You look off into the distant years before you, searching the horizon for your own promised land that flows with milk and honey. In a sense, we all do, every day.  … unemployment is higher than it has been in many years. Unresolved wars and stifling deficits obscure our view of tomorrow. … One could lose heart, seeing a future that awaits but doesn’t entice. It could look like a land of promise without much promise. But the Lord always offers each of us a promised land. You can be sure of that. The promised land—your promised land—really is there. If you follow the admonition of the Lord, you really will inhabit that rich land and harvest its blessings—milk, honey, and all. Everything you have learned at BYU points toward a land laden with promise, luxuriant in opportunity, and waiting with wonder. … the promised land today is not likely to be a place like it was in Old Testament times or even for the pioneers. Instead, the promised land is a way of life.”[4]

Later, Clayton argues that the generation has no equal in terms of training and preparation.

“Today you cross a modern Red Sea or River Jordan as you graduate from BYU and move on. No generation has been better trained or more richly prepared for its future.”[5]

This is merely one example where we’re taught, today, the idea that the doctrine of gathering is no longer.  Today we’re instructed that the promised land is merely a way of life that comes about when we take advantage of our training and preparation.  Then, as we take advantage of those things we’re promised a rich land and harvest – “milk, honey, and all.”  I’ll leave the meaning of that verbiage to the reader.  It seems to me, though, that Clayton is suggesting that wealth, among other things, is waiting for those who use the preparation and training the church gives.

When I read that this past summer I was taken aback, unsure of the logic of relating the promised land with a way of life.  Granted, for a people who’ve been toiling in Babylon for 180+ years, perhaps it’s to be expected.  After so many years have ticked away on the calendar of life, at what point to we start forgetting about Zion.  Approaching Zion, a collection of a number of Hugh Nibley essays, was published over 20 years ago.  It’d be hard to argue that those 20 years have produced a better understanding of Zion and/or a Church™ that is closer to Zion.

And yet, on one hand, Clayton is correct.  The way we live our lives is the start of something and it necessarily begins with us.  No one else can lead our lives for us.  No one else can dictate what we do, choose or are.  That lies – and necessarily so – with us.  It’s a matter that is strictly between us and Christ.  And yet, that is merely a starting point.  Whereas Clayton (and many others) imply that this way of life is an end all and represents Zion – after all, Zion is the pure in heart and can be found wherever we are.  Zion, it is correct, is the pure in heart.  However, to suggest that Zion is found wherever we are ignores an integral part of Zion.  Namely, retuning to Approaching Zion, Nibley argues the following:

“[Zion] is not a society or religion of forms and observances, it is strictly a condition of the heart.  Above all, Zion is pure, which means “not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed”; it is all Zion and nothing else.  It is not achieved wherever a heart is pure or where two or three are pure, because it is all pure – it is a society, a community, and an environment into which no unclean thing can enter. … It is not even pure people in a dirty environment, or pure people with a few impure ones among them; it is the perfectly pure in a perfectly pure environment.”[6]

It should be said that I tend to agree with Nibley on this.  It’s one thing to say that Zion begins with the pure in heart, and an entirely different thing to suggest that Zion ends at that point without discussing the doctrine of gathering, which just happens to be one of those “lost” doctrines.  Lost in the sense that, today, it’s largely ignored and when it is taught it’s taught in a way that disavows any real communal gathering, instead focusing on such gatherings as take place in church buildings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  This would be all well and good, were it merely described and labeled as a precursor, but with teachings like what Clayton shared to BYU graduates, it seems that the idea of a precursor is nowhere in sight.  And that, to me, is most unfortunate.

“Money … Should Be Used as a Means of Achieving Eternal Happiness”

Previously, I shared a portion of a transcript which related the idea that the promised land, today, is one which gives us material blessings – food, money and wealth.  This, however, isn’t a new idea or teaching.  It’s been around for eons or, at the very least, centuries.  The goal of our existence, it would seem, is to create, engender and facilitate the growth of wealth.  Just now, as I opened up Yahoo.com, the lead article was little other then how we can go from “mowing laws to building multi-million-dollar businesses.”[7] The subject of that article recounted how he “was always motivated by making money” – from selling night crawlers as a kid, to mowing lawns, to selling multi-million dollar businesses.  The first comment to the story reinforced this idea:  “…oh how I wish I could replicate what you did,” while others laud him for his hard work.  The interview retold in that article isn’t actually that bad, and I can see myself in a lot of the things this man shared.  After all, all too often we’re told that our hard work is what is needed in this economy – stop siphoning off all that is the welfare state and get to work, you lazy bum!

Indeed, it has been said:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you can education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[8]

Others have reiterated the idea that we must “complete as much formal, full-time education as possible” and that any funds we use on such education is “money well invested.”[9]

While Hinckley compares our true worth with education and monetary value, Ashton tells us that we must “repent” in order improve our “money-management skills.”  In this same talk, Ashton reiterates that we simply must “teach family members early the importance of working and earning” money (emphasis is mine), not to mention the importance of “involv[ing] yourself in a [life] insurance program,” while also counseling us to “cope with existing inflation.”[10]

But, ironically, this is not all.  Ashton concludes his thoughts on money with this beauty:

“Money in the lives of Latter-day Saints should be used as a means of achieving eternal happiness. … God will open the windows of heaven to use in these matters if we will but live close to Him … .”[11]

Hugh Nibley once related the following story on this topic:

In my latest class a graduating honors student in business management wrote this–the assignment was to compare oneself with some character in the Pearl of Great Price, and he quite seriously chose Cain:

Many times I wonder if many of my desires are too self-centered. Cain was after personal gain. He knew the impact of his decision to kill Abel. Now, I do not ignore God and make murderous pacts with Satan; however, I desire to get gain. Unfortunately, my desire to succeed in business is not necessarily to help the Lord’s kingdom grow [a refreshing bit of honesty]. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I feel that few businessmen have actually dedicated themselves to the furthering of the church without first desiring personal gratification. As a business major, I wonder about the ethics of business–“charge as much as possible for a product which was made by someone else who was paid as little as possible. You live on the difference.” As a businessman will I be living on someone’s industry and not my own? Will I be contributing to society, or will I receive something for nothing, as did Cain? While being honest, these are difficult questions for me.

They have been made difficult by the rhetoric of our times. The Church was full of men in Paul’s day “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5) and making others believe it.  (Leaders and Managers.)

Not only, are the “windows of heaven” assumed to mean financial prosperity, as shown in Ashton’s last quote, but we’re also instructed that whatever money we earn here on this earth should be used to achieve “eternal happiness.”  It’s as if money could, indeed, buy happiness.  It is true that it’s all too easy to pick and choose statements from Church™ leaders on these subjects, but I’m specifically not trying to do this.  Statements like these are everywhere and can be found in virtually any general conference – I found the above quotes within less than two minutes on LDS.org.  The Church™, it would seem, is merely reflecting the world we live in.  Given how easily the lost-doctrine of gathering was abdicated during the Great Depression, members across the world were forced to live and adapt to the Babylonian society around them.  Now, approximately 80 years later, there’s nary a blip on the radar when we link money to the “windows of heaven” and suggest that wealth and prosperity are not only necessary, but recommended courses of action for all of us.

Wealth Can’t Possibly Be All That Bad, Can It?

That’s a good question.  I’ve long thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with being wealthy, of having more than was needed.  Nearly every American is likely viewed as “wealthy” by those living in Africa, where per capita GDP is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 annually.  True, their “expenses” are likely less, but if you thrust an average citizen of Liberia[12] into an average American neighborhood odds are they’d be shocked at the bounty they’re confronted with – that is until they acclimate to their surroundings.

Avoiding those nuances, the scriptures decry wealth, riches and everything in between.  Nephi, for example, states, “”wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world.  For because they are rich they despise the poor.[13] In other words, the very fact that you (or I or anyone) are wealthy demonstrates your sinfulness.  In order to become wealthy, you have to despise the poor.  Or, at least that’s how Nephi phrases it.  Paul[14] seems to suggest that anything beyond food and clothing is more than we need.  Jacob tells us that we should be share all of our substance with those in order that there are no poor among us.[15] In other words, we’re supposed to give away all of our excess wealth until all are equal.  Excess wealth, by definition, is anything above and beyond our basic needs.  Joseph Smith was told that the entire world is in sin because we’ve allowed people to possess more than others.[16] Further, the Lord himself stated that when we fail to impart our portion to others, we assure ourselves of being counted among the wicked and experiencing the torment of hell.[17] Elsewhere Christ reiterated that we’re not to lay up any treasures at all while here on earth.[18] The love of money is the root of all evil[19], but what exactly is this love?  Strong’s Concordance suggests the Greek word used in this instance is Philarguria and derives from what we know today as avarice[20] and greed.  Others, still, have defined this “love of money” as little more than “the desire to have money in the bank.”

Elsewhere, again, Christ deplored the mentality we have to set aside those things which ensure our bounteous living.  In giving this, perhaps one of His most poignant parable, Christ responds to a fellow who was hoping Christ could convince his brother to share an inheritance with him:

“And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of acovetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to abestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, aSoul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, beat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy asoul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up atreasure for bhimself, and is not rich toward God.”[21]

Later on in that same chapter, Christ reminds us to sell what we have and give alms.[22] But, before continuing on, it might be instructive to pause and re-read that last bit of Luke 12.  The parable is of a rich man who was, once again, richly blessed – so much so that he found himself with no room to store his goods.  So, like any normal human, he decided that it was in his best interests to build bigger and better storehouses (yes, plural) for his goods.  Then, after laying up his goods in his newly built retirement account, he can say to himself, “Soul, thou has much goods laid up …,” it’s now time to rest and enjoy.

Perhaps it’s also instructive that the Lord’s prayer reminds us that we’re to pray for our “daily bread[23],” an oft overlooked reminder that we’re truly dependent on the Lord and no one else.

Moroni, similarly, condemned our day, practices and churches – especially with regard to our use of money.  In ripping us up and down for our selfish ways, he stated:

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.  For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.  O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?  Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?”[24]

In other words, we think we’re pretty special, wear what we consider to be special clothes, our churches (yes, all of them) are polluted because of this pride and, unfortunately, we love our money, material possessions, nice clothes and our fancy chapels/churches more than we love the poor, needy, sick and afflicted.  And, because of these behaviors, we’re considered both polluted and hypocritical.  No mincing of words there.

A similar article on this subject suggests that there’s a rather simple test to decide whether our hearts are set on riches:  do you possess or desire costly apparel?[25] I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s a significant indicator.  I’d also expand that question to include imparting our substance to the poor and needy, among others[26].  The original author also suggests that “for each excess penny (i.e. the smallest unit of monetary measure) one has to decide whether he will accumulate it, or give it away.”  Likewise, it’s impossible to simultaneously accumulate excess and give it away to the poor, hence the Lord’s injunction that we can’t serve two masters.  Either we’re serving Him, or we’re serving ourselves (via riches and money).  Indeed, serving the Lord implies that we’re focused on the present and our present needs.   When we concern ourselves with future needs and obligations – from a monetary perspective – we’re forgetting these teachings and, unfortunately, despising the poor.

So Just How Does This Relate to Tithing?

Thought you’d never ask.

As discussed previously, tithing is synonymous with the “Lord’s law of finance” or the “Lord’s monetary system,” or even the “Lord’s revenue system.”[27] Paying your tithing, per our current interpretation of Malachi 3:10, will result in the “windows of heaven” unlatching themselves and dumping material blessings down on you and your loved ones.  In fact, James E. Talmage went so far as to say that the blessings of tithing are “beyond estimate, as gaged by the coin of the realm, [and] are assured unto him who strictly conforms to the law of the tithe because the Lord has so commanded.”[28] When it comes time to paying your bills or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  When it comes to feeding your family or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  Why?  Simply because we’re promised blessings in the form of the “coin of the realm” (i.e. our currency).  Tithing is, after all, fire insurance.  In fact, Marion G. Romney, as a member of the first presidency, once stated that “tithing is worthwhile as fire insurance.”[29] Indeed, Romney continues, “tithing is, in a very real sense, a form of fire insurance – insurance against burning, both in this life and in the life to come.”

That’s the logic these days.  And it’s the same logic that’s been around for decades, if not longer.  It’s the way I was raised and the way I thought for many, many years.  Only recently have I began to see a movement afoot, if only a cyber-movement which is beginning to challenge the status quo.  More and more, various blogs and writings have started to call into question both the way and the method with which we pay our tithes – and rightfully so, I believe.

WeepingForZion, after sitting through a Sacrament meeting where the speaker reiterated that we pay our 10% tithing no matter how hard it may be for us, discussed D&C 119 and stated, “…there is no tithing without consecration, as consecration is the beginning of the tithing of the people.  However, we have left that law out and made tithing a law to itself.”  One of the comments to this entry replied with an interesting analysis on 3 Nephi 24:7-12 and 4 Nephi, following which that author replied:  “… the true principle of tithing is only made possible by consecration.”[30] Zo-ma-rah, in discussing the differences between D&C 119 and the “law” we preach today, responded, “if there is a contradiction between the Lord’s Word and what a prophets speaks then the Lord’s Word trumps everything.”[31] PureMormonism likewise has discussed tithing frequently in recent months, shedding light on Daymon Smith’s book (The Book of Mammon), wherein he points out, “When instituted by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s tithing wrought a very small revenue stream, and it was designed to be small in order to prevent just the sort of dominating ‘Church’ that now governs and patrols, steals the very name, and surveys and takes and gives what it believes best to congregations.”[32] It should go without saying that others[33] have discussed tithing in past years, but the frequency with which the topic is being discussed in recent months has given me some food for thought.

What I would like to focus on, though, is the point emphasized in Daymon Smith’s book – shared by PureMormonims – namely, that tithing was meant to produce a very small revenue stream.  When Lorenzo Snow gave his talk on tithing back in 1899 the impetus for his talk was to help alleviate the financial struggles of the church – not enough tithing was flowing in to cover the obligations the institution was taking on.  A CES manual suggests that members simply stopped paying tithing because they feared the federalistas would confiscate whatever property they gave as a tithe.  This same manual further states that “the Lord revealed to President Snow” that the church needed to pay a “full and honest tithe” in order to rid the church of its debts.

LeRoi Snow, Lorenzo’s son, reported to the Deseret News (the church owned newspaper):

“…the law of tithing had been neglected by the people, also that the Saints, themselves, were heavily in debt, as well as the Church, and now through strict obedience to this law – the paying of a full and honest tithing – not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessings of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations, and they would become a prosperous people.”[34]

Lorenzo’s exact words, as reported in the Millenial Star, were:

“The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this:  the time has now come for every Latter-day Saint, who calculates to be prepared for the future and to hold his feet strong upon a proper foundation, to do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full.  That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion.”[35]

The CES manual concludes by reminding readers that:

“…the saints obedience to that call eventually brought the Church out of debt … and established a firm temporal foundation for the kingdom of God.  Much of today’s growth in temples, chapels and other buildings and Church programs around the world is the direct result of the temporal prosperity of the Church that came, and still comes, as the result of Saints living the law of tithing.”

To me, these statements raise several questions that should probably be answered.  Namely, (a) Lorenzo Snow reminded members in “every settlement throughout the land of Zion” to pay a full and honest tithe, but what does that mean, especially if he’s referring to the “land of Zion” and, (b) is tithing supposed to be used to fund the vast construction projects of the church – chapels, temples, other buildings, etc.?

As discussed previously, D&C 119 specifically notes that there is no tithing absent consecration.  Likewise, Snow himself declared that his statement was “the word of the Lord” on this issue.  If that is the case, then I find it unfortunate that there is no mention of consecration outside the settlements of Zion and, further, it should be noted that shortly following this statement the church morphed from an “in-kind” donation form of tithing to a cash based system.  Based on the last question, this statement by Snow is essentially asking individual members to pay off the loans the church took out to buy many of the businesses Joseph F. Smith[36] discussed in the Reed Smoot hearings in the early 1900s, among other things.

Biblical Comparison

In order to better understand the purposes for tithing, I turned to the bible to see if it said anything on how it should be used.  In doing so, I came across an interesting article that gives an entirely different viewpoint I thought needed to be brought up.

In responding to Malachi 3:10 (the “robbing God” scripture), the author of this article suggests that the context of that scripture is often lost on us.  He reminds us that Malachi 3:7 tells us how everyone had “gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.”  But, what were those ordinances and how were they not being kept?  Further, turning to Deuteronomy 14:22-23, Deuteronomy 14:24-26, and Deuteronomy 12:17-19, we read, in each instance, how there was a commandment to “EAT” the tithes.  In each instance the Israelites were instructed to eat their tithes, in a spirit of rejoicing, together with their families, their servants and the Levites.  Or, as the author notes it, “to have fun.”  At no point in these verses did the Israelites leave any portion of their tithes at any appointed place, instead the tithes were to be consumed in “an atmosphere of celebration, sharing, and communion with God.”

Before continuing on, it might be worth reading the entirety of the following verses:

And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.  At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the atithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:  And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the awidow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.[37]

Based on this scripture (as well as Deuteronomy 26:12), the Levite is allocated a tithe every third year, or, on average, not 10% every year as we currently understand the practice.  Placing this “tithe” “within thy gates” was a way of placing the tithing in a storehouse – indeed, the same storehouse referenced in Malachi 3:10.  But, as referenced above in Leviticus 14, the Levites (the “ministry”) weren’t the only ones with access to the storehouse:  so were the poor AND the fatherless AND the widowed.  This every-third-year tithe was specifically given to bless the widows, the fatherless and those in church ministry.

The original author further states,

“Levites were allocated cities within each tribal land (“within your gates”) in which they were to live with their families and, apart from houses, they were allocated “pasture land”. This pasture land was a part of the storehouse in which the tithes were deposited: some of the tithes were in the form of grain, seed, wine, oil and other farm produce, and some were actually live domestic animals, rather than killed meat. These animals which were received as a tithe were to be pastured till they were taken and killed for food, either by the Levites, or by those in need. Therefore, the storehouse mentioned in Malachi 3 is not the place of worship, but rather a place within each tribal land, easily accessible to the local Levites, the poor and the strangers on their journey.”

Later, in discussing the issue of “increase” as it relates to tithing, an interesting scenario is presented:

“If we check Numbers, chapters 1-3, we will find that there were approximately 30 to 33 Israelites to one Levite. Now, assume 32 Israelites with an ‘increase’ of 100 sheep a year each. If each Israelite would give his tithe of 10 sheep to the Levite, the Levite’s total income would be 320 sheep, of which he would have to give a tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, as per Num.18:26. Each Israelite would be left with 90 sheep out of his ‘increase’. Let’s assume, that was what was needed to feed an average family for a year. On the other hand, each Levite would end up with 288 sheep. If we add the tithe of every third year, the year of tithing, the balance in favour of the Levite would swing even further.

What would the Levite do with all these sheep? If he would use the whole lot to feed his family, the tribe of Levy would become extinct in few generations: they would be dying from overeating at a much higher rate than the rest of Israelites. The second possibility would be that there were so many poor people and strangers, who would consume about two-thirds of tithes, that is, God planned that two-thirds of tithes belong to the poor and strangers.

The third possibility could be that the Levite would consume about 90 sheep, give some to the poor, and be left with a healthy surplus. This surplus sheep would breed and very soon the Levites would have income of their own. By continuing with collection of tithes, they would very soon run out of the pasture land and would be forced to exchange some flock for land. Continuing with this practice for fifty years would probably result in Levites owning all the land in Israel! And then the Jubilee year would come and they would have to return the land to their original owners – back to square one! Would this make sense?

And, of course, there is a fourth possibility: the Levites would consume as much of the tithes as they needed, give some to the poor and the strangers, and sell the rest, get the money into their hands and go and proselyte (evangelise) the world. A real possibility, however, the Word of God makes no mention of it. … The conclusion is obvious: Tithes were not supposed to be used to proselyte (evangelise) the world.

Now imagine, as I concluded from the Scripture, that Israelites give 10% of their income to the Levites every third year only. 32 Israelites with an annual increase of 100 sheep each, would have 300 sheep of increase each in three years. Each one would give 10 sheep (a tithe of the third year) to the Levite, and be left with 290 sheep (for three years) as his increase. The Levite would receive 320 sheep, of which he would have to give his tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, and be left with 288 sheep as his after-tithe income over three years – nearly an EXACT number with which each Israelite would be left. THIS does make sense – this is the principle of equality! … ”

It should be noted that I don’t agree with all of the author’s arguments, but the information is compelling enough that it should be shared.  Returning to Deuteronomy 26:12, this scripture suggests that those tithes (“the THIRD year”) provide the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow with enough to “be filled.”  Paying it every 3 years is somehow enough to satiate their needs.  This suggests that what is given every third year fully provides for each group – none would be left wanting, none would be left poor and, perhaps more importantly, none would be left with gobs and gobs of money to invest for three years and then spend on lavish building programs (which seem to receive funds that were never intended to be used in such a way).

In concluding the article, the author offers the following as the most important points of tithing:

“First of all, it is obedience to God: there is no need to elaborate on this any further.

The second important point is that, through tithing, Israelites expressed their thankfulness to God Who provided for them all those earthly goods that they needed to sustain their lives. Tithe was a token of that appreciation.

The third and important point is that tithing was a vehicle of sharing. This sharing was demonstrated at two levels. Firstly, sharing between the Israelites who received their inheritance from God (the life sustaining land) and those who did not posses such inheritance, the Levites, the strangers and the poor. If we examine the figures, the number of Israelites versus the number of Levites and the percentage that the Israelites were to give to the Levites (one third of 10%) we will find that each would end up with an equal share. This is the principle that was observed in the distribution of manna: one who gathered much had nothing left over and the one who gathered little had no lack.

The second level of sharing was the community sharing, where people would come together with their families and neighbours and share in the atmosphere of joy and celebration before the Lord.

It is worth observing that tithing was not a vehicle to ‘build the kingdom’ or to ‘save the souls’ or to support some other ‘godly’ project.”[38]

When the scriptures discuss the principle of giving and sharing, it speaks of giving and sharing to the poor and needy; taking care of those who have less than we do; alleviating their burdens, their struggles, their perceived injustices.  I’m still looking for a reference on how tithing funds are obligated to be spent on building programs, by the way.

Returning to the previous points, we rob the poor when we focus on wealth; we rob the poor when we insist that we need to build beautiful churches and temples around the world; we rob the poor when we focus more on our clothing than on sharing our abundance with them; we rob the poor when we think of tithing as solely a mechanism whereby we enrich ourselves, as a means of “fire insurance,” all while non-tithe payers become more impoverished.

The True Purposes of Tithing

Deuteronomy 27:19 provides a thoughtful rejoinder on the true purposes of tithing:

“Cursed be he that aperverteth the bjudgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”

Christ, likewise, reminds us:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give TO THE POOR, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”[39]

And:

“Sell what you have and give alms … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[40]

Among many, many others.

In the past, I’ve frequently misjudged the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah, focusing largely (solely, in fact) on their sexual trespasses.  Ezekial 16:49, though, gives us some much needed insight, going so far as to suggest that the following was the iniquity”:

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister aSodombpride, fulness of bread, and abundance of cidleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

They had plentiful food, were filled with pride (nice clothing tends to do that) but, perhaps most importantly, they forgot about the poor and the needy.  Much like us today, we focus on our own balance sheets, we review our annual financial condition,[41] and then we give token appreciation for the poor and needy on major holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving or Christmas) while largely forgetting them during the other 363 days of the year.

Daymon Smith noted in his Book of Mammon this same tendency among the Church™:

“Rarely does your money feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or provide for other non-religious forms not published by the Church Office Building or sent forth from the COB.”

“By the time the money comes back from the COB, the Church has generously tithed to the needy from its multibillion dollar revenue stream something on the order of one percent, often in used, tattered clothing and rice and wheat and so on…For all its bluster and public relations about humanitarian aid, The Corporation, in other words doesn’t follow its own rule of tithing.”

Perhaps it’s no wonder why people the likes of Heber J. Grant have lamented that the “heavens are as brass” to them.  When we forget the poor, the needy and the widowed while pillaging church coffers in order to run myriads of businesses we shouldn’t expect anything else.  And, on a personal level, when we reject the poor, needy and widowed while funding our 401(k)’s we shouldn’t be surprised when the Lord looks the other way in our time of need.

It should, perhaps, be noted that almost one year ago, today, the Church™ announced it was adding “caring for the poor and needy” as an “official” purpose of the church.  One can argue the timing of the announcement, but at least it’s there.  Whether that translates into giving away more than 1% of annual tithing revenue remains to be seen – i.e. whether it’s just lip service to quell the feelings many have about the exorbitant investment in things like City Creek Center and other odd investments for a “church.”  Until we refocus our teachings on tithing to discuss giving the majority of that money to the poor, needy and widowed, I’ll continue to have my doubts.  LDSA recently stated that, “Charity is an over-whelming desire and willingness to share all that you have with everyone else.”  I whole heartedly agree and, it would seem, this is the underlying motive behind tithing and giving all of our abundance to help the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widowed.

Returning to the discussion on one of the reasons why we should be more focused on giving of our substance to the poor, Isaiah penned these words:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him… And if thou draw out thy soul to the ahungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light brise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall aguide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in bdrought, and cmake fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a dspring of water, whose waters fail not.  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer…”[42]

I discussed these verses elsewhere and would direct you there for further discussion on those.

To me, tithing used to be about doing something measureable, about purchasing “fire insurance,” about making sure I was doing everything I could to unlatch those windows in heaven, sure of the bounteous monetary blessings that would follow.  To me, tithing used to be about doing something that allowed me to get a temple recommend, about “not robbing” God and about doing my part to fund the massive church building, curriculum and administrative programs.  That is what it used to be about.

No longer is tithing about funding a system that takes that money and siphons it directly into interest bearing accounts that toil in Babylon; no longer is it about financing large real estate ventures; no longer is it about using money to achieve happiness.  Those are misdirected motives.

Now, tithing is in the process of being redefined.  And rightfully so.  Hopefully it’s more than just lip service on my end, too.

“But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the bworld lieth in csin.” – D&C 49:20.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  The Widow’s Mite.  17 September 1985.

[2] Child, Sheldon F.  The Best Investment.  April 2008 General Conference.

[3] See 3 Ne. 24:10; Malachi 3:10.

[4] Clayton, Whitney L.  Promised Lands.  12 August 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Nibley, Hugh.  Approaching Zion: What is Zion?  A Distant View.  1989.

[8] Hinckley, Gordon B.  New Era.  April 2009.  Page 17.

[9] Ashton, Marvin J.  One for the Money.  July 1975 Ensign.  Page 73.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12]Liberia at a Glance.”  GDP for Liberia is actually $170US per year.

[13] See 2 Ne. 9:30.

[14] See 1 Tim. 6:8.

[15] See Jacob 2:17.

[16] See D&C 49:20.

[17] See D&C 104:16, 18.

[18] See Matthew 6:19, 21.

[19] See 1 Timothy 6:10-11.

[21] See Luke 12:13-40 for a more in-depth discussion on this and subsequent teachings on this same issue.

[22] Alms are little more than money or goods contributed to the poor.  See this to begin your study on alms.

[23] See Luke 11:3, Matthew 6:11, among others.

[24] See Mormon 8:35-39 for a good old fashioned lecture.

[25] See SearchingforZion.com for this (entitled:  Wealth and the Gospel), and other articles.

[26] See Alma 1:27, 30 for a good idea on where to start.

[27] Talmage, James E.  The Articles of Faith, 12th edition.  Pages 526, 528-529.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Romney, Marion G.  The Blessings of an Honest Tithe.  Jan-Feb 1982 New Era, page 45.

[30] See What Have We Done to the Poor? for more detail.

[33] See The Law of Tithing (4 Part Series) over at LDS Anarchy for more detail, among others.

[34] Snow, LeRoi C.  “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage Was Not the Way of Men,” Improvement Era, July 1938, 439.  It is interesting to note that this report was given some 40 years after the fact.

[35] Snow, Lorenzo.  Millenial Star, 24 Aug. 1899, 533.  See also this CES Manual, pages 86-88.

[36] An entire transcript of the Reed Smoot hearings and Joseph F. Smith’s responses can be found here.

[37] See Leviticus 14:27-29.  Emphasis is mine.

[38] See The Truth About Tithing – Old Testament Perpective by George Potkonyak to read his entire article on this subject.  In fact, I’d recommend it to just about everyone.

[39] See Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22.

[40] See Luke 12:33-34.

[41] Marsha, daughter of Russell M. Nelson, was once quoted as saying the only time she remembers her father watching television was on New Year’s Day when he would spread out papers and review the family’s annual financial condition while watching football games.

[42] See Isaiah 58:6-12.

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Post 2 (Originally written for weepingforzion.com):

All We Need is Love  by:  Guest Author (Tom)

What is Love, or in other words, what is Charity?

I’ve been engaged in several conversations over the past couple of weeks regarding the state of today’s LDS Church and have been constantly reminded that “all we need is Love”.  The response to inquiries into the state of the church, church policies, doctrines, leadership, etc., all goes back to this euphemism – “all we need is Love.”  Typically, this “love” is related to the differences between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.  The tree of life, symbolizing God’s love, is the tree we’re shooting for.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree we’re hoping to avoid, is the tree which, supposedly, relates to these inquiries, questions and discussions regarding the brethren, different policies and procedures.

The Nature of Criticism

It seems that the critique of a policy or procedure is inexplicably linked to a critique of the brethren (brethren being the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles).  No longer can we, as this logic flows, question something the church does without it automatically implicating them.  They, as I suppose, are those who send orders down to various levels of an extremely centralized hierarchy and as such purveyors of information, policy and procedure, they are either glorified or vilified for the results.  Never mind that this logic flow doesn’t truly work in other areas and sectors of our lives, it nevertheless is the apparent case within the LDS Church and its members.

Interestingly, in a talk which has granted members supposed justification to persecute others they view as criticizing, or at the very least a justification and need stifle “apostate” behaviors, Dallin H. Oaks differentiated between two kinds of criticism.  One he defined as “the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything”, and stated that this form of criticism is “inherent in the exercise of agency and freedom.”  Today, however, all criticism of church policies, teachings and programs seemingly fall within the other definition Dallin H. Oaks gave, that of “passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.”  It’s unfortunate that members would persecute other members, and stifle discussion of issues, because of ignorance between these two definitions of criticism.

Indeed, Dallin H. Oaks further added this recommendation, which we’d do well to understand and implement:

“The counsel to avoid destructive personal criticism does not mean that Latter-day Saints need to be docile or indifferent to defective policies, deficient practices, or wrongful conduct … Our religious philosophy poses no obstacle to constructive criticism of such conditions. The gospel message is a continuing constructive criticism of all that is wretched or sordid in society.  … But Christians who are commanded to be charitable and to “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) should avoid personal attacks and shrill denunciations. Our public communications—even those protesting against deficiencies—should be reasoned in content and positive in spirit.” – Dallin H. Oaks

Instead of shying away because of fear of harming the reputation of people – especially when the modern man’s (and woman’s) ego is so fragile and easily harmed – we should engage in constructive criticism to avoid the pitfalls that come through groupthink.  However, within the LDS church today, any tiffs with policy, procedures or the like is automatically tainted because of alleged “evil speaking” or “faultfinding” of the brethren, a bitter fruit of that pesky tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This, to a large extent, serves to smother all discussion of policies, procedures, and matters emanating from the Church Office Building.  It seems to suggest that the teaching from the June 1945 Improvement Era maintains a stronghold on the minds of members at all levels of the hierarchy, especially at the individual level.  This teaching stated:

“…He [Lucifer] wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to “do their own thinking.”… When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan — it is God’s plan.   When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy…. (June 1945 Ward Teaching Lesson, Improvement Era 48:354)

Never mind that President George Albert Smith, the newly called President of the Church at that time, repudiated this teaching in his response to a letter from an official from another church questioning the message taught:

“…that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to his Maker for his individual acts…. (George Albert Smith Letter to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7,1945)

Yes, in spite of this repudiation and other teachings from the very leaders members sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, this same line of thinking largely exists inside the Church today.  To compound this problem – getting to the heart of this essay – one of the main reasons why we are to forgo our questioning and discussion into questionable policies, procedures and teachings is because we are to be Love.  “All we need is Love” is something that is frequently reiterated in response to anything that appears controversial.  To show love, it seems, we must show mercy, understanding and, unfortunately, acceptance in the face of contradictory information.  Acceptance as used in the previous sentence can either mean personal acceptance (i.e. agreement) or acceptance in that the church and its teachings are how they should be and to speak up is to partake of the bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the expense of the tree of life.

Personally, I fully agree that we must show mercy and understanding to those who labor for the cause of Zion – wherein they actually labor for that cause and not some other – but I do not agree with the injunction that we must accept and move on from the contradictions as we see them.  The reason why I disagree with this premise is rooted in this very discussion on love and charity.  Both love and charity have many levels of understanding, which magnifies the complexity of the situation.  To say that “all we need is love” is an extremely vague and misleading statement.  What kind of love, one might ask?  Do we show “love” in the permissive sense of the word, letting everyone do what they feel is right, or do we show “love” in the same way which Mormon and Moroni – the last two prophets in the Book of Mormon – and Christ showed love.

In writing this essay, I’m fully cognizant that I’m writing from an extremely flawed perspective and paradigm.  I am but one person and fully hope that my errors in reasoning, judgment and application of the following principles and scriptures will be pointed out to me to prevent further errors down the road.  This I fully accept and realize as truth.  Please correct me in my the rationale I put forth to reach my conclusions.

Mormon & Moroni

Moroni first emerges onto the scene in the Book of Mormon in statements made by his father, Mormon, near he end of the record as he states in a couple of different locations his plan to give some of the plates to his son to finish their writings and seal up the record for a latter day (see Words of Mormon 1:1; Mormon 6:6, 11).  It’s significant, in my flawed opinion, that Moroni’s first words and writings can be found in Mormon 8, a chapter filled with words which are none to pleasant on the ear of those living in the times he described.  Mormon 7 is a record of Mormon’s dying testimony, after which Moroni picks up the record and states, in Mormon 8:1, “I … do finish the record of my father, Mormon.”

Mormon 8 is a chapter that pulls on the heartstrings of anyone wanting to know the truth and willing to understand the context of Moroni’s words.  He, Moroni, is noticeably distraught over the destruction of his people, lamenting that:

“…and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people.  But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father.  And whether they will slay me, I know not. … wither I go it mattereth not … for I am alone.  My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor wither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.” (Mormon 8:3-5, emphasis added)

Moroni and Mormon, like Christ, were men acquainted with grief, sorrow, pain and death.  Their lives were lived in an era of constant war, destruction and death, Moroni even stated that “…the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.”  With this information as a pretext, we jump into the meat of Moroni’s teachings, but before doing so I must comment on love and charity.  In spite of all his afflictions, in spite of all that he had seen and lived through, Moroni nevertheless had a firm testimony of love and charity, because he had been gifted that pure love of Christ.

“34 And now I [Moroni] know that this alove which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

“35 Wherefore, I [Moroni] know by this thing which thou hast said, that if the Gentiles have not acharity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and btake away their ctalent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

“36 And it came to pass that I [Moroni] prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles agrace, that they might have charity.

“37 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made aclean. And because thou hast seen thy bweakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. (Ether 12:34-37)

In these verses I see a story of a man fighting within himself, wanting to be filled with charity in spite of all that is going on around him.  He grew up in a world filled with hate, murder, destruction and cynicism.  He grew up and lived a life which saw everything taken from him – his friends, kinsfolk, his father, the disciples who ministered to him and his father, and any semblance of a home.  Yet, in spite of all these struggles, we see a man who nevertheless was blessed with the gift of charity.  A gift he must have desired, a gift he must have asked for.  In pondering over verse 37, I wonder whether his weakness was a lack of charity during a portion of his earlier life.  In verse 36 he’s praying for others that they may receive grace, which would lead to charity.  In verse 37, the Lord tells him it does not matter whether they have charity (at least it did not matter to Moroni), but what did matter was that Moroni did see “[his] weakness” (verse 37), which the Lord, as promised, made into his strength.

It became such a strength to him that he felt, in spite of the lack of room he had on the plates (Mormon 8:5), the need to include a letter from his father on the topic of charity.  Within this letter Mormon states emphatically:

“Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear…I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love…” (Moroni 8:16-17; emphasis added)

This particular verse is enlightening in how it deals with the discussion of love and charity because these verses immediately follow a stinging rebuke of those who believe in infant baptism, stating that such people are “pervert[ing] the ways of the Lord”, that they shall “perish” absent repentance, that they are in “the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity”, and that they neither have “faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go to hell.”  Those are some pretty strong words for a man, a prophet, who is filled with “everlasting love” and “with charity” and takes time to testify of his being filled with it, but only after reproving those who believe in a fallacious doctrine.

This chapter follows the beautiful writings of Mormon in Moroni 7 which discuss the “pure love of Christ.”  Moroni, likewise filled with such charity, stated throughout his short writings the need for charity, faith and hope and that all things will fail, excepting charity, and that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”  These two men, father and son – Moroni and Mormon – knew like few others what it was like to have charity in the face of a life filled with unimaginable pain, suffering and sorrow.  This undoubtedly was one of the main reasons why they felt the need to share those words with us on the last few remaining pages of their written record, to us who may also witness similar sufferings and afflictions.

Later, Moroni, like his father, also issued a rebuke to us in the last days who pollute the holy church of God and prostitute ourselves for that which is of no worth.  His stinking rebuke was, nevertheless, a result of his love and charity towards us, as strange as that may seem.  He wasted no space in writing what he did, precisely and accurately describing what he needed and was inspired to say.  Some of his rebukes included the following language, in describing the time in which his record [the Book of Mormon] would come forth from out of the ground:

“…it shall come forth in a day when … the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts…”

“…it shall come forth in a day when … there shall be churches built up that shall say:  Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”

“…ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people … why have ye transfigured the word of God?”

“…ye do walk in the pride of your hearts … unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts…”

“…ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?”

“…why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans…”  (Mormon 8:28-41).

I would recommend a thorough reading of the entire chapter with the thought in mind of how his charity and love for us, the very people he saw and was writing to, comes through in his words.  Surely, if we look at the words of both Mormon and Moroni we can see that charity and love include a level which can and must be described as either hard, tough, or a rebuking love.  Love is much more than a platitude we add to letters, conversations and discourses about positive messages, it’s also a willingness to say the hard things that sting and cut through the fluff all too present in our current dialogues and conversations.  In writing this they were no doubt partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, God’s love, in that they were laboring to bring men unto repentance and laboring to get men, across centuries of time, to turn back to God and Christ.

Truly, these men emulated Christ, and truly received “the pure love of Christ”, which required that they, at times, teach truth which is hard to receive (at least, for those who reject truth because it’s uncomfortable).

Christ

Turning, then, to Christ, who needs neither introduction nor preface, especially from me, and some of the ways he showed charity and love to those around him.  I will not attempt to create an exhaustive list of some of his stinging rebukes, but have selected some which show several different ways he used and taught love and charity to those around him:

“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. … Woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the market.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For yea re as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. … Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.  … Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; the fullness of the scriptures; ye enter not in yourselves into the kingdom, and those who were entering in ye hindered” – Luke 11:39-52 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation …” – Luke 9:41 (emphasis added)

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My ahouse shall be called the house of bprayer; but ye have made it a cden of thieves.” – Matthew 21:12-13 (emphasis added)

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from aheaven.  He aanswered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and alowring, O ye bhypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the csigns of the dtimes?  A wicked and aadulterous generation seeketh after a bsign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the csign of the prophet dJonas. And he left them, and departed.  ¶ Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the aleaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.  aWhich when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the adoctrine of the Pharisees and of the bSadducees. – Matthew 16:1-12

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall asin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be blifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and cmurders, and dpriestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall ereject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” – 3 Nephi 16:10 (emphasis added)

“And while they were at variance one with another they became very aslothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.  And the enemy came by night, and broke down the ahedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive-trees.  Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the avineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?  Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a awatchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?  And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. – D&C 101:43-62 (50-54)

There are likewise hundreds of other scriptures in the same vein, uttered, written or spoken by Christ (or his authorized servants) throughout our standard works.  The number of times that Christ has called us wicked, perverse, faithless, adulterous, hypocrites, murderers, full of priestcrafts and wickedness, materialistic, rotten on the inside, and other names and insinuations is almost without number.  Are his rebukes and criticism examples of his partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a bitter fruit, an example of him not showing forth the very charity of which He himself is the definition?  Did he ever partake of that bitter fruit?  I think the answer to these questions is self-evident.  In all of this Christ provided the perfect example of one who was all about love, whose every action was motivated by pure love for those around him, including the Pharisees and scribes and including us, perhaps the most perverse and wicked generation yet to live on this green earth.  Indeed, Christ is the very definition of charity, especially when it meant rebuking and calling out those who were preaching false doctrines, following false traditions and professing to know his name and gospel.

Conclusion

In the aforementioned examples of Moroni, Mormon and Christ, we have direct and scriptural examples of both love and charity through the use of words and criticism which we typically associate with partaking of the bitter fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This association, as we can see, is largely false.  Charity and love occasionally require us to “[reprove] betimes with sharpness” (D&C 121:43).

One of the definitions for “betimes”, according to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, is “before it is late” or in “good time”.  In Hebrew, the word for “betimes” is shachar which means to “seek early”, “look early for”, etc.  The reproof needed, then, as directed by the Holy Ghost, must be done before something gets out of hand, while there’s still time to correct the erroneous path and well before the errors take hold within the individual, quorum, class or wherever it’s found.  For those members of the church who hold the priesthood, if they’ve attained the office of teacher or higher (in either the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods), then they have a scriptural duty to “teach, expound, exhort, baptize and watch over the church” (D&C 20:42, 53).  To watch over something implies observation, vigilance and providing protection from harm (see Nehemiah 4:7-9; Luke 2:8; D&C 61:38; D&C 82:5; among many others).

To what end do we, or should we, “watch over the church” and how does this relate to charity and love?  I believe that watching over and protecting both flocks and individual sheep (including myself) from harm, error and evil (where we see it and where we are in position to say something) is perhaps the epitome of charity and love that Christ, Mormon and Moroni were showing.  They said and did the things they did because they truly cared for us, were concerned for our spiritual welfare and had special responsibilities and callings to “watch” over us.  Indeed, the Lord is our Shepherd.  His utmost concern is to watch over us and provide us protection from the storms of life where we need it.  If one fails in their watch, as those responsible for building the watchtower in D&C 101, then that person has no charity and must fail.  Christ has charity because he is the very definition of charity and love.  Sometimes that charity and love is soft and meek, sometimes that charity and love is hard and reproves us because of our wickedness.

Questioning a policy, practice or teaching within the church can be, depending on the method, the epitome of love and charity, serving to correct error and lift everyone to higher planes of understanding.  In a world which has grown soft to criticism, where anything relating to “negativity” is viewed as a personal attack or, worse, “evil speaking” and “faultfinding”, and where we in the church are told to avoid all forms of criticism for fear of partaking of that bitter fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, this lesson gets lost in the mud of life and buried deep beneath the surface.

No matter the result, if we deceive ourselves into believing that the only duty we have is to profess allegiance to a form of love which ignores the very love which Jesus and the Lord’s authorized servants have employed since Adam was first on the earth, and if we imply that we have no duty to “watch” over our respective flocks, to speak up and confront error when so impressed by the Holy Ghost, indicates nothing more than the sad fact that we have no understanding of love, nor charity, and must fail.  To suggest that any critique or criticism of policies, practices (false or otherwise), teachings and traditions is partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil at the expense of partaking of God’s love is to promote a perverted version of the truth.  For it is true that at the end of the day all we really do need is love…Christ’s true love, not a misleading definition that promotes both the ignoring and continuation of fallacies wherever they may be found.

Your thoughts, critiques and rebukes are encouraged.  :)

8 Responses to “All We Need is Love”

  1. anonymous Says:
    December 3rd, 2009 at 9:50 pm Best post I have read in a while.

    While admonishing the Thessalonian Saints, Paul encouraged them to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”.

    Although that scripture is a great one for missionaries to use in getting Christians of other denominations to become critical thinkers and investigate the restoration, it is interesting to note that Paul was not speaking to investigators. He was speaking to his fellow Saints.

    As a general authority, Paul was not as threatened about having his teachings critically analyzed by fellow Saints as he was concerned that the Saints would become complacent and mindless followers, setting themselves up to be taken advantage of by the eventually infiltration of false teachers into the flock.

    Being a critical thinker whilst under the influence of the spirit is how we avoid being deceived and/or avoid getting too far off the path.

    Baptism is not the finish line, it is the starting gate. There is still much to learn and experience after that and much discernment is needed in keeping us on the right path.

    Paul was one of the exceptions to the rule who did not find his way into the fold via the “proving” process. Rather, his paradigm change had to be brought about by divine intervention. It appears as though he had been stuck in the traditions of his fathers and refused to question those in authority… including himself. It appears he refused to be a critical thinker, discerning the fruits of the existing church and its members and leaders.

    This makes his counsel all the more poignant, coming from one who had failed to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good…. he learned the hard way .

    If “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” certainly the edifying act of continuing to prove all things and discerning truth and holding fast to that which is good is a very important function of charity.

    In that context, I agree with your friends…

    all we need is love…

    even if it appears at times to be “tough love”

  1. TuNeCedeMalis Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 12:50 pm My thoughts… A great writeup.

    I have had very similar thoughts recently and appreciate your concise and direct focus on the truth.

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, we simply must pray to have charity for those that we are disagreeing with.

    TuNeCedeMalis

  2. Tom Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 2:35 pm Thanks for the comments…

    Disagreeing is not lacking love, though I’ve heard direct assertions (to me personally) that questioning and disagreeing are automatically linked to both apostasy (from what I might ask?) and to leaving the church, or trying to find your way out of the church on purpose. The flow in logic baffles me – as if to say we can’t question ANYTHING church related without wanting to apostatize or leave the church.

  3. dan Says:
    December 5th, 2009 at 12:58 am It could be viewed that the most Charitable act the Lord ever did to this point was to baptize the earth by water. And he sent a prophet to tell them all they needed to repent first. The next big charitable event is soon on the table. If men could only see as he sees.

    Though in reality the most charitable acts ever performed involved giving up celestial nature that we may live and putting sin on a perfect and sinless mortal body for our sake. Both, if I could do them now, would be seen as evil by the skeptics looking on.

  4. Jeff R. Day Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:42 am I think there is a true Love (of Christ), and a false Love (of Paul, in my opinion). Be careful which you apply.

    The topics upon which you have been blogging on here are close to my heart. I was ultimately driven out of the church as a result of going down these paths. But, I would make the same choice again if given the option. Truth will prevail.

    I am just so very glad to see that at least one other person out there cares about some of these topics enough to study them out. Pray, study, hold fast to that which is true, and do not the group-think of the society within the Church to convince you otherwise.

  5. Jake The Ant Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 10:01 am and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

    Elaborate, ye wise ones.

  6. dan Says:
    December 9th, 2009 at 1:46 am After the resurrection of christ, three days and night in the heart of the earth (hollow earth?) as Jonah in the fish, the people of the south who accepted Jonas words will be given to destroy the Israelites who do not accepted the new covenant or Jonah, Christ.

    This is of course also a last days type. When the servant is marred, he will later be healed and receive power. Than, with all Israel safe, the Gentiles (who had originally accepted Jonah) will reject this new prophet and Israel will not. The last may be first and the first last.

  7. Tom Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 2:12 am Curious as to why paul’s love was referred to as “false love” (comment #5)…and would love to hear your point of view.

    as to the discussion on “proving all things”, the greek word used in this verse (1 Thess 5:21) is dokimazo, which comes from the root word dokeo. Dokeo means to judge something or have an opinion of something. dokimazo means to “recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy”, and is synonymous with “discern[ing]“. Thanks for pointing this verse, in context, out. Truly we should “prove all things”, but hopefully with the goal of taking what we’ve been given, and improving upon it by taking the good and rejecting the false in favor of better.

    If that makes sense…