Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 23

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Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 23 - Tithing

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW tithing.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 23 - Tithing

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Response to claim: "The definition and requirements of tithing have varied at different periods in the Church"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

The definition and requirements of tithing have varied at different periods in the Church

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. The definition of what constitutes tithing has been modified over time by Latter-day prophets. The requirements related to tithing in the 21st century are not the same as they were in the 19th century. When tithing was initiated in the 19th century, it was based upon surplus. However, the First Presidency issued the following statement in 1970, which is repeated the current Church Handbook of Instructions:

The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay 'one-tenth of all their interest annually,' which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this. [1]


Response to claim: "The previous chapters reveal that Malachi wasn't talking to the general membership of the Church when he asked, 'Will a man rob God?' but was rebuking the priests who had been collecting money and food to give to the poor, but were keeping it for themselves"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

The scriptural basis for this teaching comes from the book of Malachi in the Old Testament. Malachi 3:8,10

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. …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.

The previous chapters reveal that Malachi wasn't talking to the general membership of the Church when he asked, “Will a man rob God?“ but was rebuking the priests who had been collecting money and food to give to the poor, but were keeping it for themselves.

Author's sources:

  1. Malachi 3:8,10
  2. Malachi 2-3

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

We are taught to "liken the scriptures unto ourselves." In fact, most scriptural teachings in their original context are not addressed to "the general membership of the Church." For example, when Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate and failed, he was taught that he needed to "study it out in his mind," we apply this teaching to the "general membership of the Church. We do not discount it as applying only to Oliver Cowdery. What difference does it make that Malachi was talking to the priests who had stolen tithing? In this case, the principle is exactly the same: Give the Lord what He asks for and he will open the "windows of heaven" in return. This applies not only to the priests, but to the "general membership of the Church."


Response to claim: "Old Testament laws were never taught by Jesus Christ and did not apply to New Testament Christianity"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

One thing to consider when the Church applies Old Testament laws to modern standards is that Old Testament laws were never taught by Jesus Christ and did not apply to New Testament Christianity.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The author is incorrect: In 3 Nephi 24 8-10, Jesus Christ applies Malachi's words regarding tithing to the Nephites:

8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my 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.

It should also be noted that the Law of Tithing predates the Law of Moses: Abraham and Jacob paid tithes. (see Genesis 14:20 and Genesis 28:22))


Question: Was the "Law of Tithing" an Old Testament law that was done away with when Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses?

The Law of Tithing predates the Law of Moses, and there is no scripture which abolishes it

Abraham practiced it (Genesis 14:20), Jacob practiced it (Genesis 28:22), as well as under the law of Moses. There is no scriptural passage which abolishes the Law of Tithing. The way in which tithing is administered may evolve to meet the current needs of the Church as the prophet receives revelation on the subject. As Loren C. Dunn, Quoting Orson F. Whitney, noted in the April 1976 General Conference:

The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book. They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of the instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites. Whatever is done by this Church is because God, speaking from heaven in our day, has commanded this Church to do it. No book presides over this Church, and no book lies at its foundation. You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God's priesthood, inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the constitution of the Church of Christ. … Divine revelation adapts itself to the circumstances and conditions of men, and change upon change ensues as God's progressive work goes on to its destiny. There is no book big enough or good enough to preside over this Church.[2]

Jesus Christ renewed Malachi's prophecy in his visit to the Nephites

Jesus reiterated and thus renewed Malachi's prophecy in his visit to the Nephites and Malachi's prophecy specifically commends the law of tithing. In 3 Nephi 24:8-10, Jesus Christ applies Malachi's words to the Nephites:

8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

9 Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my 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.

The Law of Consecration is the eternal law: Tithing is merely a subset of the Law of Consecration given in this particular dispensation

The Law of Consecration is the eternal law: being willing to give everything with which you are blessed to the building up of God's Kingdom. Tithing is merely a sub-set of how we do that at this particular time in this particular dispensation.


Response to claim: "Are members today required to follow the Law of Moses, like the Pharisees, to be approved for a temple recommend?"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Some examples of the Law of Moses

1. Acceptable to murder a non-virgin - Deuteronomy 22:13-21 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her. Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate… But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel… Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.
2. Acceptable to beat your slave to death - Exodus 21:20-21 When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money. 3. Animal sacrifices - Samuel 7:9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord.
4. No eating pork - Leviticus 11:7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and bevclovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
5. No eating shellfish - Leviticus 11:10-11 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.
6. No eating pawed-animals - Leviticus 11:27 And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you.
7. No mixed-plant gardens - Leviticus 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes… thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed.
8. No mixed-fabric clothing - Leviticus 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes… neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.
9. Mandatory circumcision - Leviticus 12:2-3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
10. Netting installed around your home - Deuteronomy 22:8 When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

Are members today required to follow the Law of Moses, like the Pharisees, to be approved for a temple recommend? Latter-Day Saints, like all modern Christians, are taught by Christ to not be bound by these archaic rules but instead to love your fellow man. Paying tithes to the sons of Levi at the temple was also an Old Testament law.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Tithing predates the Law of Moses (Abraham and Jacob paid tithes), and Jesus Christ taught it to the Nephites. Therefore, tithing has no relationship to the strict laws of obedience that the author lists as part of the Law of Moses, which was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was upon the earth.


Response to claim: "why is tithing a modern practice? It turns out that the Catholic Church re-instituted the law of tithing centuries after the completion of the Bible"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

why is tithing a modern practice? It turns out that the Catholic Church re-instituted the law of tithing centuries after the completion of the Bible

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Latter-day Saint compliance with the Law of Tithing has nothing to do with what the Catholic Church does. It is based upon Jesus Christ's teachings to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 24 8-10.


Response to claim: Regarding a statement by Lorenzo Snow in a Church manual: "The removal of the phrase 'who has means' demonstrates that the modern Church is not above misrepresenting the truth to ensure being paid above the individual needs of members"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

At the October 1899 General Conference, President Lorenzo Snow delivered a talk on tithing.

“I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has means shall pay one tenth of their income as a tithing...” (Conference Report, October 1899, p .28. http://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1899sa/con ferencereport692chur#page/ 28/mode/2up)

Again, the early brethren knew some were so burdened they had no means to pay. However, in a piece of disturbing information, an edited version of this statement was reprinted in the lesson manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, ch.12: Tithing, a Law For Our Protection and Advancement.

“I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child ... shall pay one tenth of their income as a tithing” (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow manual, p.160. www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-lorenzosnow/chapter-12-tithing-a-law-for-our-protection-and-advancement?lang=eng)

The removal of the phrase “who has means” demonstrates that the modern Church is not above misrepresenting the truth to ensure being paid above the individual needs of members.

The Church taught that tithing was only payable on the surplus income after all other living expenses were covered. Also, if a person did not have the ability to pay they did not have to. This doctrine has been deliberately hidden from the members.

Author's sources:

  1. Brigham Young, March 13 1860. Mar.13 1860, Office Journal: Book D, p. 54, Josephsmithpapers.org
  2. Joseph F. Smith, October 1899 General Conference. http://archive.org/details/conferencereport1899sa
  3. Elder Lynn G. Robbins. Tithing—a Commandment Even for the Destitute, April 2005 General Conference
  4. Elder Aaron L. West, Sacred Transformations, December 2012, Ensign
  5. ConferenceReport, October 1899, p.28. http://archive.org/stream/conferencereport1899sa/conferencereport692chur#page/28/mode/2up

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

On the same page of the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual that the author cites, we also see this quote from President Snow:

There is no man or woman who can not pay one tenth of what he or she receives. [3]

President Snow is not exempting anyone in the Church from paying tithing. He did not qualify his statement to exclude the poor or destitute.

The Webster's 1828 dictionary definition of "means" is as follows:

Means, in the plural, income, revenue, resources, substance or estate, considered as the instrument of effecting any purpose. He would have built a house, but he wanted means.

If we use this definition in President Snow's statement, here is what we have:

I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has income, revenue, resources, substance or estate shall pay one tenth of their income as a tithing...

In 1899, there were still immigrants arriving in Utah who had spent months traveling, not working, and therefore had no "means" or "financial resources" to pay tithing. Even today, a Church member who has no income does not "have the means" to pay tithing, and such will not prevent them from obtaining a temple recommend.


Notes

  1. First Presidency letter, 19 March 1970. This letter has been quoted in numerous talks by general authorities and Church lesson manuals. A convenient examples is Robert D. Hales, "The Divine Law of Tithing," Ensign (December 1986), 14. off-site
  2. Conference Report, October 1916, p. 55. Elder Orson F. Whitney Quoted by Loren C. Dunn, in General conference, Ensign May 1976, p.65-66.
  3. In “President Lorenzo Snow’s Message on Tithing,” 185; from the minutes of a meeting held in the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City on May 29, 1899.