Consider this: On January 5, I paid tithing for the first time. On February 17, I was demoted. On April 6, I bought a car dealership. By May 31, I had sold 172 cars and was off and running in the car business. People might say this was a coincidence, but how many coincidences need to occur before they're not considered coincidences? When I began paying my tithing, that was absolutely the beginning. Then I was demoted and it forced me out of a situation where I thought I would be indefinitely. There were forces at work that sent me back to Utah.
So here we were, sitting in his house (my bishop) late at night, and he turned serious, even stern. "I'm going to ask you the worthiness questions, and this time I want answers." So I answered all the questions, and there was only one question that I answered negatively: "Do you pay tithing?" I said no.
The bishop asked why.
"I don't know, I said. "I can't afford it; I just don't."
So, the bishop asked me if I would star paying tithing and I agreed.
Then he asked me if there were any other problems we should discuss.
"I swear-a lot," I said.
"Do you take the name of the Lord in vain?"
"Why do you swear?"
"It's better than hitting people," I said.
The bishop laughed. "Will you quit swearing?"
When I quickly agreed to his request, the bishop said, "You said that readily."
"Well, I don't swear in front of women," I explained, "so I guess I can control myself at other times, too."
The bishop concluded the meeting by asking me again, "Will you quit swearing and will you pay tithing?"
I said yes. I went home-I remember the date: December 28, 1978- and I told Gail, "Starting the fifth of January, I want you to take our gross income and pay tithing on it and don't ever ask me about it again."
A lot of things broke loose after that. If you asked me what the turning points of my life were, I would say marrying Gail and paying tithing. Ever since I made that decision to pay tithing, the Church has been the guiding force in my life-in business, family, everything. I have undergone a curious change since then as well. When I was younger, going to church was a duty. I did it because of social and family pressure. That all changed. Church became an enjoyable refuge for me and a place to learn. I love going to church, sitting there listening to the songs, the lessons, and the testimonies. It feels like a safe, comfortable place, and I have found something to be true that I have always preached to my employees: You can learn something in every meeting if you're teachable and have the right attitude and are humble.
"...pay your tithes and offerings out of honesty and integrity because they are God's rightful due...Paying tithing is not a token gift we are somehow charitably bestowing upon God. Paying tithing is discharging a debt."
The tithe-payer establishes communion with the Lord. This is the happiest reward. Obedience to the law of tithing, as to any other law, brings a deep, inward joy, a satisfaction and understanding that can be won in no other way. Man becomes in a real sense a partner, albeit a humble one, with the Lord in the tremendous, eternal program laid out for human salvation. The principles of truth become clearer of comprehension; the living of them easier of accomplishment. A new nearness is established between man and his Maker. Prayer becomes easier. Doubt retreats; faith advances; certainty and courage buoy up the soul. The spiritual sense is sharpened; the eternal voice is heard more clearly. Man becomes more like his Father in Heaven.
The best marriage guarantee you can have is the one you sign in the presence of your bishop--and it has to be renewed once a year. Using this recommend in the companionship of your husband or wife is the best antidivorce guarantee available--not just because you have entered the temple but also because of what temple worthiness represents. This guarantee requires supporting each other in Church callings, working out the payment of tithing, praying together, studying the scriptures together, and giving service together.
During the time freedom was curtailed in Eastern Europe, Patriarch Walter Krause travled from Germany to Hungary to pay a home teaching visit to Brother Denndorfer. He later reported to me that when he arrived and introduced himself, Brother Denndorfer said to him, "Before I shake the hand of a servant of the Lord, I first wish to pay my tithing." He then retrieved from a hiding place the tithing he had accumulated during the more-than-forty-year period. "Now I feel worthy to shake the hand of a servant of the Lord," he said.
As I answered the telephone, the person calling said to me, "Are you the president of the mormon Church?"
"No," I replied.
She then said, "Are you president of the Mormon Church in Canada?"
Somewhat frustrated, she said, "Well, are you the man responsible for the two young men who come door-to-door with the message of Mormonism?"
I replied that I was, and she curtly stated, "Then get them off my back! We have had no peace in our home since these two young men called at our door. My foolish husband believes their message." She mentioned to me that her name was Rogers and gave me her address. I told her that I would respect her wish that the missionaries not call at their home, but that if Mr. Rogers wanted to continue his study of the truth, he could do so at our own residence on Lyndhurst Avenue. I then felt impressed to say to her, "Mrs. Rogers, you're not able to accept the law of tithing, are you?"
She responded, "How did you know? How did you know?" She went on, "Why, of all the foolish doctrines, to think that those of us who can't get by on one hundred per-cent of our income could get by on nine-tenths. I can't buy that nonsense!" She then slammed the receiver in my ear.
As I returned to bed, Frances asked, "Who was that?"
"Some woman who doesn't want the missionaries," I replied.
I forgot about the incident. About two months later I was attending the fast and testimony meeting of the Tortonto Branch, there to bless our newly arrived child, Clark Spencer Monson. The branch president said, "We have a number of ordinances today-- some blessings, some confirmations. We would like now to invite the members of the Rogers family, seated on the front row, to each one be confirmed a member of the Church." Instantly the name Rogers flashed through my mind. I looked at the red-headed woman sitting on the front row. As I did so, I wondereed, "Could this be the Mrs. Rogers who telephoned at two A.M.?" As though we were communicating one with another, Mrs. Rogers' eyes met mine, and she nodded her head affirmatively.
Following the ordinance work and the condlusion of the meeting, I went forward to congratulate the Rogers family. I said toher, "Could you possibly be the Rogers who telephoned me early one morning?"
She said, "Yes, President Monson, and tithing pays."
I replied, "Tithing does pay, just as the missionaries have declared." I was happy to help confirm her a member of the Church.
Though she was a widow, you may turn to the records of the Church from the beginning unto the day of her death, and you will find that she never received a farthing from the Church to help her support herself and her family; but she paid in thousands of dollars in wheat, potatoes, corn, vegetables, meat, etc. The tithes of her sheep, the tenth of her eggs, the tenth pig, the tenth call the tenth colt-a tenth of everything she raised was paid. Here sits my brother, who can bear testimony of the truth of what I say, as can others who knew her.
She prospered because she obeyed the laws of God. She had abundance to sustain her family. We never lacked so much as many others did; for while we have found nettle greens most acceptable when we first came to the valley, and while we enjoyed thistle roots, segoes and all that kind of thing, we were no worse off than thousands of others, and not so bad off as many, for we were never without cornmeal and milk and butter, to my knowledge. Then that widow had her name recorded in the book of the law of the Lord. That widow was entitled to the priveleges of the House of God. No ordinance of the gospel could be denied her, for she was obedient to the laws of God, and she would not fail in her duty, though discouraged from observing a commandment of God by one who was in an official position.
This may be said to be personal. By some it may be considered egotistical. But I do not speak of it in this light. When William Thompson told my mother that she ought not to pay tithing, I thought he was one of the finest fellows in the world. I believed every word he said. I had to work and dig and toil myself. I had to help plow the ground, plat the potatoes, hoe the potatoes, dig the potatoes, and like duties, and then to load up a big wagon box full of the very best we had, leaving out the poor ones, and bringing the load to the tithing office. I thought in my childish way that i8tlooked a little hard, especially when I saw certain of my playmates and early associates of childhood, playing round, riding horses and having good times, and qwho scarcely ever did a lick of work in their lives, and yet were being fed from the public crib. Where are those boys today? Are they known in the Church? Are they prominent among the people of God? Are they or were they ever valiant in the testimony of the truth in their hearts? Are they diligent members of the Church? No, and never have been, as a rule, and most of them are dead or vanished out of sight.
Well, after I got a few years of experience, I was converted, I found that my mother was right and that William Thompson was wrong. He denied the faith, apostazed, left the country, and led away as many of his family as would go with him. I do not want you to deny me the privilege of being numbered with those who have the interest of Zion at heart, and who desire to contribute their proportion tothe upbuilding of Zion, and for the maintenance of the work of the Lord in the earth. It is a blessing that I enjoy, and I do not propose that anybody shall deprive me of that pleasure.
With this thought in view, I thank my earthly father for the lesson he gave to two boys in a hayfield at a time when tithes were paid in kind. We had driven out to the field to get the tenth load of hay, and then over to a part of the meadow where we had taken the ninth load, where there was "wire grass" and "slough grass." As we started to load the hay, father called out, "Now boys, drive over to the higher ground." There was timothy and redtop there. But one of the boys called back (and it was I), "No, let us take the hay as it comes."
"No, David, that is the tenth load, and the best is none too good for God."
That is the most effective sermon on tithing I have ever heard in my life, and it touches, I found later in life, this very principle of the law of sacrifice. You cannot develop character without obeying that law. Temptation is going to come to you in this life. You sacrifice your appetites; you sacrifice your passions for the glory of God; and you gain the blessing of an upright character and spirituality. That is a fundamental truth.
At the conference, I called on him to speak. I did not know what it might do to him, but I thought I would take a chance. He made a fine talk. He told of his trips to the East, how he explained the gospel to the people he met, and how grateful he was for his heritage. He stated that his opportunities in the world had been magnified and multiplied because his father and mother had joined the Church in the Old World.
As we drove home, he turned to me and said: "My, this has been a wonderful conference. I have enjoyed it."
...I thought to myself, he had enjoyed it because he himself had participated. I was glad he had. Then he said: "You know I have heard many things in this conference, but there is only one thing that I do not understand the way you do."
I said: "What is it?"
"Well," he said, "it is about paying tithing." He thought I would ask him how he paid his tithing, but I did not. I thought if he wanted to tell me, he would. He said: "Would you like me to tell you how I pay my thting?"
I said, "If you want to, you may."
"Well," he said, "if I make ten thousand dollars in a year, I put a thousand dollars in the bank for tithing. I know why it's there. Then when the bishop comes and wants me to make a contribution for thye chapel or give him a check for a missionary who is going away, if I think he needs the money, I give him a check. If a family in the ward is in distress and needs coal or food or clothing or anything else, I write out a check. If I find a boy or a girl who is having difficulty getting through school in the East, I send a check. Little by little I exhaust the thousand dollars, and every dollar of it has gone where I know it has done good. Now, what do you think of it?"
"Well," I said, "do you want me to tell you what I think of it?"
He said, "Yes."
I said: "I think you are a very generous man with someeone else's property." And he nearly tipped the car over.
He said: "What do you mean?"
I said, "You have an idea that you have paid your tithing?"
"Yes," he said.
I said: "You have not paid any tithing. You have told me what you have done with the Lord's money, but you have not told me that you have given anyone a penny of your own. He is the best partner you have in the world. He gives you everything you have, even the air you breathe. He has said you should take one-tenth of what comes to you and give it to the Church as directed by the Lord. You haven't done that; you have taken your best partner's money and have given it away."
Well, I will tell you there was quiet in the car for some time. We rode to Salt Lake City and talked about other things.
About a month after that I met him on the street. He came up, put his arm in mine, and said: "Brother Smith, I am paying my tithing the same way you do." I was very happy to hear that.