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One of the distinctive practices of the Restored Church is the payment of tithing.
Many outside the Church pay forms of tithing since it is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, but only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is it taught and practiced as an eternal law of God.President Brigham Young emphasized this when he said:
"The law of tithing is an eternal law. The Lord Almighty never had his kingdom on the earth without the law of tithing being in the midst of his people, and he never will. It is an eternal law that God has instituted for the benefit of the human family, for their salvation and exaltation." (Journal of Discourses 14:89.)
The law of tithing is a relatively simple one to understand. Thirty years ago, President Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, defined it as follows:
"The law is simply stated as `one-tenth of all their interest.' Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source." (Conference Report, April, 1964, p. 35.)
When faithfully practiced the law is replete with blessings and promises. Its spiritual rewards are manifold, even as its temporal benefits are obvious.
But having paid tithing there is still an additional step that needs to be taken. In the revealed procedures of the Church members are given the responsibility once each year to meet with their bishops or branch presidents to declare their tithing faithfulness.
This practice, commonly known as tithing settlement, occurs in December of each year and is a satisfying and rewarding experience for Church members and their bishops or branch presidents as well.
As the Lord's agent, the bishop or branch president receives the tithes from Church members, and so it is to him that we go to discuss our compliance with the law.
Unless a member meets with the bishop or branch president, the leader has no way of knowing whether or not the person is a full-tithepayer. This was emphasized in a 1970 letter from the First Presidency to members of the Church as follows:
"Every member of the Church is entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord and to make payment accordingly." (March 19, 1970, letter from the First Presidency.)
Thus, it is our obligation to declare before the bishop or branch president that we have done our duty. The record that is made of such a declaration becomes part of the official records of the Church.
In November 1832, the Lord instructed that records should be kept "of all things that transpire in Zion" including the members' "manner of life, their faith, and works. . . ." (See D&C 85:1-2.)
It was specifically noted that those who were disobedient would not be included in the records that were kept "or to be had where it may be found on any of the records or history of the Church." (See D&C 85:3.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the following about the need for accuracy of records when he said:
"The book of the law of God was the book to be kept by the Lord's clerk. There is also another book which is kept in heaven, and the one kept in heaven, and the one kept by the Lord's clerk should be accurately kept so that it would agree with the Lamb's Book of Life." (Church History and Modern Revelation 1: 349.)
These records on the earth and in heaven will form the basis for judgment in that day when we shall stand before the Lord. How joyous it will be when all records disclose our faithfulness.
What a choice experience it is to spend some personal time with the bishop or branch president. In many cases it is appropriate for an entire family to meet with the bishop, especially so children can hear their parents declare that an honest tithing has been paid.
Even if a full tithing has not been paid, members should seek an opportunity to counsel with their bishop or branch president so that a proper course for the future can be charted.
Schedule your appointment time with your bishop or branch president. Attend tithing settlement with a spirit of love and obedience. Counsel with your bishop or branch president. Respect his time during this busy season, but go and humbly account to him of your stewardship and receive his admonitions and blessings as the chosen agent of the Lord.