Tithing is our opportunity to PROVE THE PROMISES OF THE LORD, where He said:
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 Lord does not need your money. He has all the gold, the diamonds and gems and knows where they all are. But He allows His church to grow at the slower pace where OUR contributions are used to help the church grow, to take the gospel to the world. It is His plan for US to do these things. It is our opportunity to participate, and in the end, reap all of those blessings of living in the NEW JERUSALEM. The scriptures do say, that if we do not pay our tithing, and the 2nd Coming arrives, we would be burned with all the rest of the wicked as taught in D&C 64:
22 And after that day, I, the Lord, will not hold any guilty that shall go with an open heart up to the land of Zion; for I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men.
23 Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.
24 For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.
The Lord distinguishes between those who have been taught, and those who are in ignorance to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. One of these laws is tithing.
“Verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of MY people”
He knows where all the gold is, He knows where all the diamonds are. He will use that to build the New Jerusalem, where the scriptures say in Revelation 21:
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; and 12 different kinds including emeralds, topaz and a lot of other difficult to pronounce gems and precious stones, all just for the FOUNDATIONS of the wall.
On the 12 gates…21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
He doesn’t need our money, we should not see it that way. You need His blessings, and tithing is one requirement of that. We should not see it as doing the Lord or His church a favor, because we are not doing him a favor. He has done US a favor by letting us come down here to live on this earth, gain a body, have experiences of joy, pain, sorrow, growth, satisfaction, charity, etc. Like King Benjamin taught, we will, no matter how much we serve, be an unprofitable servant, because the Lord already has everything. He owns the earth for instance.
This earth experience is our opportunity to do as He commands us to do. Great blessings and rewards are in store for that obedient like life. But lest we beat ourselves up about the unprofitable servants talk by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, that teaching is just for our perspective to keep us humble, which we must, but God has said, about US, what He thinks of US. He does not look down on us. He has said:
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
His GLORY is this PLAN of Salvation which is the way to bring to pass immortality as well as eternal life for the obedient. Eternal Life is exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, being sealed in the temple for all time and eternity, living the gospel and enduring to the end, according to God, qualifies us to enter into that celestial realm.
The Lord has changed His Church in the last two years. A lot of things are shifting and evolving as the earth and its inhabitants are also shifting and evolving. For example, we have an internet and all the ramifications that go with that, including the way we communicate with computers and phones, or get distracted with the same. This is a rapidly growing culture in the world, the social media, the often fake news mixed with some real news, and the sometimes draconian controls exercised by those who are in authority over or have some kind of power over us, and its not just government. Our choices on what we get to see are being made by private corporations, and the world is becoming smaller and smaller to where now we sometimes care what is happening in faraway countries on the other side of the world.
Caught in the middle of all this uncertainty and offerings of the evil gifts spoken about by Moroni where he said to us:
30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.
And Jesus Christ to the Nephites taught about our day where He said:
41 And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
Speaking of “evil gifts” I was in Bishopric meeting last week and pulled up a search engine app on my iPAD to share something on the church website with them, and was presented with pornography, as one of these evil gifts. I scrolled it up to make it disappear, and thought how awful it was that NOW, this huge company has made a choice to put that on the menu of their apps, to unsuspecting persons, and I immediately thought of the youth.
What a battle we are in.
I never had such evil gifts given to me in the privacy of my cell phone, oh that’s right, because I never had a cell phone or anything even remotely similar to one, let alone a smart phone, we had a rotary dial phone and maybe used it once a day for a simple voice call. That kind of evil gift I saw on my iPAD in a bishops office, was found decades ago in magazines and you had to search them out or purposefully open the cover and look. Before the internet.
Today it is not so. It is shoved in our faces, and has been for over two decades, but much more so today. Orders of magnitude.
On Apple Music the explicit music and photos are presented. Netflix and Amazon Prime lace their headline areas with all the raunchy movies, mostly R-Rated or unrated or MA, and iTunes is the same. Even though studies show that families don’t watch those ratings very much, and the R-Rated content makes smaller amounts of money, they still push it. Why? Well if it is an evil gift, one can surmise that it was offered by someone with evil intentions, since money is not the goal. Movies and music that are filled with the evil gifts that Moroni was teaching about, the unclean things, these are gifts that are from the adversary, even the devil who is real, …if we touch them, look at them, and eventually embrace them through addictions, we have yielded control of our free agency, and find ourselves in a place where it is harder to feel the Spirit of God, and to be able to come unto Christ.
Repentance, and coming to Christ, is the only way out of this.
Repentance means change.
The prophet Russell M Nelson taught in 2019:
“Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.
Too many people consider repentance as punishment—But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ.
When Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process.
Brethren, we need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord.
Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary.
These evil gifts are affecting the young and the old. Our late prophet President Monson likened pornography to the bark beetle, which slowly eats away at the tree trunks, but does so under the cover of the bark. Nobody knows, unless they inspect the tree, that it is being attacked. Such is the secretive nature of all of our entertainment channels over the internet, because it has been reduced down to the secret little screens of a smart phone. A smart phone is not an evil thing. Neither is entertainment. But we must all take responsibility for ourselves, our homes, our families, and realize that the main focus of energy to PROTECT against the forces of evil, lies with the family unit. Not the church. The church is here to help support families. The church is not here to compel families, or even intrude on family decisions. We can all make our own choices. The prophet Joseph Smith taught this when he said “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.” SO the choice is with US, our families. Fathers have a responsibility to protect as per the Family, a Proclamation to the world.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
When I lived in the ward many years ago, there would be a clarion call to go and serve at the Lord’s vineyard in Madera every year, and we had around 40 people or more consistently go or show up sometimes all at once. A big group.
Today that number of people for whatever reasons, has dwindled to about 10% of that. But the very real welfare needs of the world have only increased in many places in the world. Stepping up is the answer. Commitment is the answer. Willing to sacrifice our time is the answer. It cannot and should not be primarily the leaders who go, because they have. Just last Friday at 1pm I heard we had Tammy Loveland and a few others from our ward helping to clean the temple for instance, and she just had a foot operation.
We have a new youth program, that the Lord has created to help them learn and do more, and not depend on older people to figure it out and carry it out. No, the youth have the opportunity to rise up, step up, and do more. But this will only work best if the parents are also involved to help their children succeed, along with support from youth leaders, and to help the youth actually plan and then prepare the activities, many of the details included, asking for help from adults where this is needed (such as driving, shopping, etc). According to what is coming from the Prophet, the Lord is challenging and expecting young people to shift some of their time to this purpose, to serve others. To prepare things and carry them out. Anciently we called things like this an eagle scout project, where if the parents were not heavily involved, that son was usually not successful in it, because they did not get the support needed. Then the 18th birthday arrives and, presto! There is accelerated action. In those kinds of projects, the youth did most of the work, the organizing, and now we are channeling this kind of effort for both young women and young men into a wide variety of activities that have nothing to do with a merit badge. It all has to do with service and focus in four different areas of development, to help us all become more Christlike in our daily activities.
Young Women. Young Men. Each are challenged and charged to help prepare and carry out four different kinds of activities. It is not so much about getting recognition anymore, like the merit badge, YW Personal Progress, Duty to God, or the eagle scout award. They don’t get a reward save it be that which they feel from the Lord, the rewards of testimony and personally feeling God’s approval. These older programs were discontinued in 2019 and a new Children and Youth Program was introduced.
Then covid hit, activities ceased, and now here we are striving to resurrect it even in still uncertain covid times. These activities are of four types: Spiritual. Social. Intellectual. Physical.
The bishopric is now tasked with many duties, including what the discontinued Young Men’s Presidency used to be. Be at activities. Be at campouts. Help youth to actually lead where possible. The Bishopric has adult assistants and specialists who also help in these. Plus the Bishopric is also to be very involved in the Young Women’s program.
But there is a growing pains transition taking place as we learn it together. Sometimes it’s an unclear understanding of where these new areas of stewardship and responsibility lay.
We must always remember, that this is a family centered church, that comes together as a ward to especially help the young people. Let’s remember that, as much as there are needs, very real needs with older people in the church, we all need to help the youth by collectively building a spiritual GUARDRAIL at the top of the cliffs of temptation, to protect youth, instead of having an AMBULANCE at the bottom of the cliff, and maybe they recover.
With this metaphor, we can plainly see that we have not sufficiently built the guardrail of spiritual safety and opportunities for growth, for many have fallen away.
It starts at home. Guardrails there. And it extends to the church. Guardrails there too.
The church is also there to help. Starting with youth leaders can’t do it well enough without the help of parents, who can encourage their own children to participate, and prepare when needed. To provide a level of support beyond a ride to church. The Bishopric and assistants Young Womens leaders, as well as various specialists are there to help. Help the family. Help the parents.
Wouldn’t it be great if each family with youth, and even those older people who no longer have children at home, took great interest in this opportunity to help youth, mentor youth where possible, to help each child and teenager in our ward to succeed at something super important? Recently several of the youth participated in a great service: cutting wood, filling up pickup trucks with chopped and split logs, three pickups full, and taking the wood to one of our widows in need. We coordinated with the Elders Quorum who were the main resource for our youth activity to make it all possible. This elderly sister shed tears of gratitude for being helped. That activity covered 3 of the 4 areas of growth. PHYSICAL lifting heavy logs. SPIRITUAL because souls were touched by unselfish service. SOCIAL as youth got to see up close the people they helped, and talk with her. SACRIFICE of those with resources of wood, trucks, and gas spent. It was a complete TEAM effort.
Our ward needs to become a TEAM again.
Covid has slowed us down, but it need not do so. We can wear masks if we have to, to be safe and still serve. We can do it. We should do it. Our lives need service.
The Bishopric has to be able to focus on the youth. And there are many older people in our ward who can minister to those who are in need of counsel, help, teaching, assistance.
This means the Relief Society and the Elder’s Quorum would take much of the responsibilities that bishoprics used to do. Counseling, work projects, helping someone who has a broke fence, pipe, fallen tree, etc., or just talking or being a true friend like Christ would do. Time spent. We need volunteers.
When the Elders Quorum or Relief Society presidencies ask for volunteers and don’t get enough people to help someone in need, or move someone, or the vineyard or the temple, or even to help with youth activities… then the leaders get burned out. The Lord wants us all to share the load of helping each other. He has said through His prophet Alma:
Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?