Tithing vs. Control

By: hawkgrrrl
August 9, 2011

We are here on earth to do good for others.
What the others are here for, I don’t know.
W. H. Auden

For the individual, what is the lesson we are supposed to learn from tithing?  IMO, the blessing of tithing is the blessing of detachment (or maybe non-attachment).  Jesus advocated detachment when he admonished his followers to go out without purse or scrip and he refers to the lilies of the valley, “they toil not neither do they spin, but Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.”  Likewise, Jesus advocates detachment from wealth in the story of the young man who had riches (Luke 18:22-24):

“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.  And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!”

Viewing tithing as “quid pro quo” and “binding the Lord” goes in the opposite direction of detachment; it is still being attached to wealth but using indirect means to attain it.  Some people focus on the entitlement of tithing:  they have “paid” through obedience and sacrifice, and now God “owes” them blessings - like a vending machine.  They literally “count their blessings,” not to rejoice, but to reconcile their accounts with God for the sacrifices they’ve made.  People want to control the uncontrollable, which is frankly the appeal of religion to superstitious people.

Seneca said, “It is not the man who has little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

For a Buddhist, detachment reinforces the idea of a self that can be separated from the world.  The Bible says we should strive to be “in the world, but not of the world,” although that expression is enigmatic.  Does this mean to favor a theoretical future (and its rewards) over an actual reality (and its work and rewards)?  How do we accomplish meaningful lives and God’s work if we reject the world?  Isn’t some engagement with “the world” necessary to progress?

Burkeman (a Buddhist practitioner) said:  “Since it isn’t external reality that determines emotions, you’re wrong to imagine that the perfect relationship, job or house would make you happy. What’s making you unhappy is the belief that you need them in order to be happy.”  In essence, the entire story of Job is an illustration of the same principles.  He doesn’t curse God and die because he hasn’t put his heart on external things, even his own children.

Detachment is possible no matter how much one has. It’s the willingness to give it up that is the key. 

So what does this have to do with tithing?  In my experience, detachment is not emphasized in how LDS people talk about tithing, and when this is the case, I think we are missing the point and the principle personal benefit of tithing:  letting go of our need to control everything.  LDS people usually talk about obedience (which means humility at best, binding God to give us blessings or using it to seek for a sign at worst), sacrifice (but of an insurance policy kind), building up Zion (through tithing funds – focusing on how funds are used, not our spiritual benefit), holding a TR (equating donations with worthiness like a membership fee), and avoiding getting burned at the second coming (fear-mongering, although usually tongue in cheek in this case).  Similarly, we hear plenty of examples of how tithing resulted in greater temporal blessings, and while these are potentially faith promoting, they can lead to further attachment to wealth or Calvinist prosperity gospel thinking.  The point isn’t the blessings themselves, but the process of letting go of our control.

The church’s focus has probably come about because people aren’t always motivated by personal growth, which is a spiritual endeavor.  Some people are simply incapable of being motivated by anything but fear, guilt, promised rewards, or peer pressure, all of which seem like religious (but not spiritual) motivators.  I’m not sure that’s a very good justification for our method of teaching tithing, though.  Is it the tithing that matters or the tithers?  Do we lead people to improve themselves or pander to their base impulses? (I suspect we do both).

IMO, we’ve become culturally misaligned with the intended meaning of this gospel principle. To the tithe-giver, tithing (like most acts of faith) is about relinquishing control, not about creating a new avenue for control.  I certainly don’t think it’s the only example in the church culture of twisting a doctrine to use it as a vehicle to control the uncontrollable.  Control freaks have a hard time getting the point of spiritual teachings, and they have a tendency to get into positions of control (go figure!).  There are superstitious people in any religion.  Given our doctrine of theosis, I’m just glad I’m not living on any of their worlds.

Do you agree or disagree?  Do you think it matters?  Discuss.

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100 Responses to Tithing vs. Control

  1. Aaron R. on August 9, 2011 at 3:11 AM

    How we teach tithing is very important and I agree with much of what you have written here. The only problem with detachment as a concept is that it does not necessarily focus upon the LDS Church becoming the source of that detachment. Now it is possible to argue that this is not a big issue but from a pragmatic point of view I cannot see the Church or the members adopting this position wholesale.

    A separate issue is whether they should. I can see the potential benefit of allowing people to decide where their 10% will be deposited for the Church and for individuals.

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  2. Mike S on August 9, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    As a Church teaching, I think the idea of detachment is the most essential to develop. In this case, it doesn’t really matter WHICH worthy cause we give our money. And, in fact, the process of determining what use of our resources would provide for the greatest good has some additional merit.

    As an organization, however, the Church needs our money given to it. The Church is a large organization. Whether it is through our donations directly, or through profits on prior donations, the Church owns billions of dollars of chapels and temples and malls and ranches and universities and land. There are thousands and thousands of people directly employed by the Church who all need to be paid. Making our donations to the Church is what enables this – even to the point where the Church calculated how much increased tithing will come in by putting a temple in a specific area and could show you how that is, in many cases, an investment.

    So, given the potential conflict between what might be best for development of an individual’s qualities or development of an organization, the organization will necessarily teach what is best for it. Therefore, it’s not going to change in my lifetime.

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  3. Jeff Spector on August 9, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    I like this discussion at so many levels. Thanks, Hawk. One of the things that disturbed me after I joined the Church is the concept that seems to be promoted in the Church of “give to get.” Not just related to tithing. but everything. Attend your meeting, get a blessing. Pay your tithing, get a blessing, read scriptures, get a blessing. It’s almost like an economic theory rather than a spiritual journey.

    As hard as it is, I would rather detach this concept. We should do things for the proper reason, not because we get something for it. While we may indeed “get” something, a blessing, should not be the motivation behind it but the fortunate by-product.

    Perhaps human nature does not allow for this.

    I really have a problem with the idea that wealth is some kind of uber-blessing for obedience. How do we know that wealth, not used to help others (Sell what you have….), is not, in fact, a curse?

    Anyway, I also wonder how the concept of sacrifice factors in here? In this day and age, the love of money is quite strong, even among Church members (see wealthy). So, while I like the concept of detachment, what about plain ol’ sacrifice?

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  4. Jon on August 9, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    Jeff,

    How do we know that wealth, not used to help others (Sell what you have….), is not, in fact, a curse?

    The concept of people being blessed with wealth comes from the bible and BoM. What most people don’t understand is that not all righteous people will be blessed with this, just the society as a whole.

    All,

    I think detachment would be a higher cause for righteousness but for the weakest of us the blessing paradigm might be good, just not the higher law. Eventually, one would hope, the higher law would be understood.

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  5. jks on August 9, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    I didn’t think my experience was unique, but I was raised to pay tithing to show that the Lord had given us everything and he was only asking 10% back, that it teaches us to be willing to give it all back (in a law of consecration kind of way). I don’t expect blessings. I pay because I pay and I wouldn’t consider doing otherwise. It is something I do to practice my priority of putting the Lord first. Although I have never NOT paid tithing so I can’t compare, I believe paying tithing does help me give up “control” and practice detachment in the way you describe and my parents always taught me that that is why you are paying tithing.
    As for the giving and getting blessings, as I get older I see how we are connected and how everyone benefits. I see my contributions to the ward, for instance, not as benefitting me directly but hopefully benefitting someone else and the ripple effect means that everyone benefits. Visiting teaching, for instance, I see as a way for the Lord to make sure all of his sheep are being cared and loved. If I don’t do it, and nobody else does either, then his work won’t be done.
    I have also lived long enough so I see that I never regret obeying the commandments. That my efforts to serve others are worth it. I appreciate the learning and the growth that comes with any sacrifice I make. For instance, accepting a calling that seems too difficult and having it turn out wonderfully and it making many positive changes for me in my life. I don’t “expect” everything to be a dramatic vending machine, but it makes me thankful and gives me the faith to endure to the end even when things are hard.

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  6. Paul on August 9, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Great post, Hawk.

    Two thoughts: In our sacrament meeting a few weeks ago, a sister told the story about a great sacrifice in her young family a couple of decades ago in making church contributions. And she ended that story by saying, “But we weren’t blessed with a raise or a promotion; instead my husband lost his job!” He point was precisely one of the ones you make: we do not give so we can get. We give because we love the Lord.

    The concept of attachment is well taught by King Benjamin: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). The act of submission, an act of humility, is also an act of detachment.

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  7. mcarp on August 9, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    While I understand the detachment concept, and I think that most of us need to learn some detachment, I think that’s a modern interpretation of the Biblical quotes. If you read them in the context of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, he’s saying, “take no purse or scrip” because the end is just around the corner. Or, “give all that you have to the poor” because you aren’t going to need it because the end is coming any day now. Why save for retirement if the end is imminent?

    The more Bart Ehrman I read, the more I think we need to look at these statements in the context of the time and culture. On the other hand, maybe we should reinterpret all scripture in our own cultural terms. To do that, however, I think we need to let go of any kind of literal interpretations, including historicity.

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  8. Anonymous on August 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    As a lifelong Mormon, and a recently investigating Buddhist, I really enjoyed this post. The concept of detachment really resonates me, and is one of the things that draws me so to Buddhism. I would love to see more of an emphasis on detachment in LDS teachings and culture as well.

    One thing I heard constantly at BYU, and which I continue to hear to a lesser extent, is the use of tithing to justify a pursuit of worldly riches. I suspect (though I have no data) that our Mormon culture produces a greater-than-average number of young people going into professional fields that have greater pay, such as business or law. I’m all for working hard and contributing to society, but it seems that making lots of money is often an even bigger priority for the typical LDS person. And this desire is often justified by, “Well, if I make more money, then I can contribute more in terms of tithing” or “The Lord blesses the righteous with prosperity, so if I seek out prosperity and earn it, that must mean I’m being blessed.”

    Does anyone else notice these sorts of notions in our religious culture?

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  9. Course Correction on August 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    mcarp

    Nice point. All scripture was given to a specific culture. Applying scriptures outside their original context is a form of wresting.

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  10. Jeff Spector on August 9, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Anon,

    “I’m all for working hard and contributing to society, but it seems that making lots of money is often an even bigger priority for the typical LDS person.”

    I think that you are seeing a typical pattern in high performance, high expectation cultures. Jewish families, Asian families have high expectations toward achievement. With sucess comes money. that’s the way were reward success. not sure tithing enters into it really. But, there is a connection between blessing, obedience and money. to me, it is weird.

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  11. Ray on August 9, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Excellent thoughts, Hawk. I agree that detachment seems to be the objective throughout the scriptures.

    Having said that, I would argue that “helping build the kindgom” (for those who really believe in the concept of the kingdom) actually is a form of detachment, even if it isn’t the ultimate example. Of course, what that means in practical terms can vary for people and across time, but I still think it’s a legitimate reason for many people to pay.

    I also believe that there is a very good element of “I’ve given faithfully for years, so I can feel better accepting assitance if I need it, even if it still is hard to do” in the payment of tithes and offerings – again, even if it isn’t the highest example of why we should pay tithing.

    I know it helped me personally when I was out of work and couldn’t feed my family and pay my bills, regardless of how frugally I lived. Knowing I had been a “contributing member” of “the group” for years made it easier to swallow my pride and allow the group to help me. There’s a partnership aspect involved, imo – and I feel worst for those who have contributed faithfully to their end of the partnership and then not been helped by the other partner (“the group”, represented by a Bishop) in their own time(s) of need.

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  12. Jon on August 9, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Anon,

    You would probably enjoy “The Yoga of Christ” by Philip G. McLemore and the references he makes in his paper.

    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/146-30-45.pdf

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  13. Heber13 on August 9, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    For me, the buddhist thinking of detachment rings most true, and seems to be aligned with higher purposes.

    Why is it then that this is not the focus taught in the church? I can only think that the church does not value that as much as worthiness to be able to move mountains with faith.

    Perhaps some people are not motivated by anything but fear and control, but that is a weak argument for why the church takes the approach and emphasis it currently seems to have.

    If there are higher laws, the true church should be valuing and teaching those first and foremost (and probably exclusively).

    My personal experience is the church teaches control through obedience, and when it doesn’t hold up, I’m on my own to find deeper meaning to things.

    Such is my position on tithing. I’m on my own to understand it.

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  14. Badger on August 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Some people focus on the entitlement of tithing: they have “paid” through obedience and sacrifice, and now God “owes” them blessings – like a vending machine.

    I once heard a missionary say essentially this (about obedience in general, not tithing specifically) to an investigator. It was followed by words to the effect that God could expect to receive some “collection” prayers if He was late paying up. The investigator was visibly shocked at the impiety, and the conversation continued along the lines of “Really?” “Yes!” “No, really?” “Yes!”. I was completely at a loss for words. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction sometimes.

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  15. Jeff Spector on August 9, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Heber13,

    “If there are higher laws, the true church should be valuing and teaching those first and foremost (and probably exclusively).”

    It does. But some people hear “control.”

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  16. Ray on August 9, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    There is an inherent, paradoxical tension between “there is a law, irrevocably decreed . . .” and detachment – and, ironically, I believe both principles.

    I just think we often have no freaking clue what the “blessings” are that are attached to “obedience” – and, often, even what form true obedience takes.

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  17. John on August 9, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    It’s funny, but when you take a step back we frequently use the same rational the priests of King Noah used to convince Noah that things were going well… and it coalesces with this discussion on blessings following some divine law. We immediately interpret those blessings to be largely temporal/financial in nature – with Marion G. Romney, Pres. Hinckley, Talmage and others echoing the same idea – but I don’t think that’s what is the baseline we’re dealing with.

    15 And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper. (Mosiah 12)

    The examples of members (in each echelon of the church – high leaders, low leaders, members, etc) using the same rhetoric to buttress arguments in favor of the church is legion. When we prosper, we immediately link it to God and the payment of tithing. When we’re poor, we tend to disassociate ourselves from God and, regrettably, blame it on unworthiness, lack of payment of tithing, etc.

    The rhetoric in the church has long been that tithing results in blessings in the form of “coin of this realm” (to borrow from how Talmage put it). Detaching ourselves from that mentality will prove to be harder than teaching members about the verities of detachment itself.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on August 9, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    I did have an experience of being told by someone that it was really unfair that I was so financially blessed because this woman was so much more obedient than me because she refused to take a job and work outside the home, even though all her children are grown and no longer at home. Now call me crazy, but how does not working result directly in higher pay than working does? My career was deemed not “hard work” but disobedience, while her choice to not work, even when her husband was out of work intermittently for over 5 years was deemed as a greater sacrifice and worthy of higher blessings. It’s hard to see how this line of thinking was expected to work.

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  19. Badger on August 9, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    …it was really unfair that I was so financially blessed because this woman was so much more obedient than me…

    It is unfair, Hawkgrrrl! How is she going to pay for servants to help her pass through the eye of a needle and get into heaven if she can’t afford decent grave goods for her pyramid?

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  20. Heber13 on August 9, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Jeff, I really don’t hear the higher laws and deeper meanings of detachment being taught in church. I hear obedience brings blessings. We should be willing to obey, because then God will bless us.

    Here is a quote from Gospel Principles manual from that chapter, which I think exemplifies the message we are given at church:
    “The blessings we have been promised are both material and spiritual. If we give willingly, Heavenly Father will help us provide for our daily needs of food, clothes, and shelter. Speaking to Latter-day Saints in the Philippines, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that if people “will accept the gospel and live it, pay their tithes and offerings, even though those be meager, the Lord will keep His ancient promise in their behalf, and they will have rice in their bowls and clothing on their backs and shelter over their heads. I do not see any other solution. They need a power greater than any earthly power to lift them and help them” (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 7)”

    This actually sounds more like we must be dependent on the Lord for blessings, we cannot get by without blessings He is waiting to give us.

    Help me see your point that they are teaching us a higher purpose in tithing other than to get blessings.

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  21. Jeff Spector on August 9, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    heber13,

    ““The blessings we have been promised are both material and spiritual.”

    I guess you got me there. Of course, the key word is “willingly,” which implies without expecting anything in return.

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  22. Heber13 on August 9, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Jeff,
    I am not disagreeing with the lesson being taught to give willingly, and that one’s heart should be in the right place to give cheerfully.

    But the message from church is clearly with the carrot…to give cheerfully with faith it will lead to blessings.

    “It is important to give willingly. “When one pays his tithing without enjoyment he is robbed of a part of the blessing. He must learn to give cheerfully, willingly and joyfully, and his gift will be blessed” (Stephen L Richards, The Law of Tithing [pamphlet, 1983], 8).”

    So I guess, I disagree that “willingly” implies without expecting something in return. We expect to be blessed, whether that is materially or spiritually for blessings. The prophet has promised us this.

    It can lead to CogDis when those blessings aren’t perceived.

    I much prefer the teaching to learn to give with no thought of reward. But our current lesson manuals don’t emphasize that, in my experience.

    Hawk said it best, “The point isn’t the blessings themselves, but the process of letting go of our control.” I agree with this, but am saddened it is not taught, but instead the church preaches a correlated message that tithing leads to blessings. Period.

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  23. hawkgrrrl on August 10, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    I wanted to remark on Prof. Ehrmann’s comment about context. While it’s true that the writings attributed to Jesus are often apocalyptic, I would hesitate to claim it’s possible to identify the real context of the original verbal remarks as the earliest NT texts were written over a generation later. Who knows when new teachings and interpretations infiltrated? Context is important but elusive. And I would further stipulate that Buddhist teachings pre-date the era, and the wise men from the east may have been evidence of the influence of eastern thought, perhaps part of the context of the time and place. There are many parallels between Jesus’ sayings and Buddhist thought.

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  24. Jeff Spector on August 10, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Heber13,

    “But the message from church is clearly with the carrot…to give cheerfully with faith it will lead to blessings.”

    And I was capitulating that in spite of my best hopes, you pointed out that there is a a give to get” mentality that is taught. It’s too bad, because it promotes giving for the wrong reasons.

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  25. Jeff Spector on August 10, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    “And I would further stipulate that Buddhist teachings pre-date the era, and the wise men from the east may have been evidence of the influence of eastern thought, perhaps part of the context of the time and place. ”

    Who’s to say, that the Buddha’s teachings were not equally “re-branded” and interpreted?

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  26. Mike S on August 10, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    I have a set of posts in the future comparing, among other things, Buddhism and Mormonism. For what it’s worth, there are dozens if not hundreds of parallel teachings from Buddha and Christ. Besides concepts, there are things which are almost word for word. And Buddha predated Christ by nearly 600 years.

    I’m not implying anything by that, and people will interpret it as it is, but the facts are what they are.

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  27. Paul on August 10, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Mike S, that should come as no surprise as truth is truth. That they have been revealed at different times and in different ways is not surprising. The Savior himself taught that other prophets who preceded him taught his teachings.

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  28. Mike S on August 10, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Regarding the carrot and the stick aspect of tithing: If you DON’T pay your tithing to the Church you:

    - Cannot serve in any leadership position
    - Cannot exercise your priesthood and confirm your 8-year-old son a member of the Church
    - Cannot see your daughter married in the temple
    - Etc

    And the principle isn’t being willing to give away what you have. You could give 10-20-30% of your income away to amazing charities who truly help the poor and needy among us. You could volunteer your time, etc. But unless you ALSO give 10% to the LDS Church, you are restricted in how you can exercise your priesthood or whether you can go to the temple.

    The talks we hear are about tithing being a principle for the GIVER. If this were true it would not matter where you gave the money. In reality, tithing is about the giving to the correct RECIPIENT.

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  29. Mike S on August 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    #27: Paul

    I absolutely agree. Many Mormons seem to think we have a “lock” on truth, however.

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  30. Jeff Spector on August 10, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    “Many Mormons seem to think we have a “lock” on truth, however.”

    We have a lock on all truth. Whever we find it….. That has always been the teaching.

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  31. Jeff Spector on August 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Mike S:

    “Regarding the carrot and the stick aspect of tithing: If you DON’T pay your tithing to the Church you:”

    I know you have a bug up yor craw about this issues:

    But frankly, there are many things that would disqualify us in spite of what nice guys we might be to the outside world.

    The bottom line is Do we beleive tithing to the Church is a commandment or not?

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  32. Paul on August 10, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    #28 Mike S — Two different things, I think, though it’s not surprising that many members mix them up.

    Assuming tithing is God’s law, then it is no surprise that the payment of tithes is linked to worthiness to exercise God’s priesthood (in the ways you’ve listed).

    That one is worthy to exercise priesthood does not, however (in my view) provide a free ticket to unlimited blessings of wealth and wonder.

    The Lord himself taught the blessings of obedience, so it is probably not right for us to separate the two, but the Lord also taught that the first great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor.

    The “higher law” seems to be to check one’s motivation — to obey out of love rather than seeking to score some specific blessing.

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  33. Jon on August 10, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    The scriptures are bast4rdi2ed (sorry, don’t want to be screened out) when you say we shouldn’t expect blessings from following the commandments. I looked it up and this is what they have to say:

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

    The place it needs to be paid to:
    Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house

    The Carrot:
    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.
    And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields, saith the Lord of Hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    Paying tithe for the wrong reasons:
    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, ahypocrites! for ye pay btithe of mint and canise and cummin, and have domitted the weightier matters of the law, ejudgment, fmercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone….Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

    So I guess I agree with the sentiment that both are important as Ray pointed out.

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  34. Heber13 on August 10, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Can’t baptize my son or see my daughter married without paying tithing.

    More control and get if you give mentality being reinforced.

    I simply feel I have to humble myself and obey it, even though my heart longs for deeper purposes and meanings. Because the church does control my access to authority. Ordinances are another topic, but also matters of control from the church that I must submit to.

    But I cannot turn to the church to teach me those things. I must do that on my own.

    My choice is to stand and deny the church’s control over me, and accept the loss of the carrots, or humbly submit even if I must seek meaning outside the church to help me develop detachment.

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  35. FireTag on August 10, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Jon:

    If you honestly believe you might be in a historical situation defined by “whited sepulchres” being in charge of the “storehouse”, which of the scriptures you quoted should take precedence?

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  36. Jon on August 10, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    FireTag,

    If you have a better interpretation of the scriptures please share. There were a lot of accusations being thrown around but no one was going to the source. I think it is productive to go to the source sometimes and see what they say. Or is it offensive to quote scripture since they were written by really old guys that no one cares about any more (at least that is what they tell me every time I start quoting things on this blog – doesn’t ever make any sense to me).

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  37. Jeff Spector on August 10, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Heber13,

    “Because the church does control my access to authority. ”

    So what would be the viable alternative? Allow people to act any way they chose and still be completely worthy? Especially when the scriptures themselves are crystal clear on this issue?

    Just wondering. Why do you assume keeping Christ’s commandments ammmouts to control?

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  38. hawkgrrrl on August 10, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    Mike S – your upcoming series sounds like a post I did a while back on MM: http://www.wheatandtares.org/2009/10/19/was-jesus-a-buddhist/

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  39. Brian on August 10, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    “We have a lock on all truth.” huh?

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  40. FireTag on August 10, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Jon:

    Of course it is appropriate to quote Scripture in which both you and your audience believe. The point I am making is that trying to apply a pair of scriptures, each given in response to different situations, can lead to error if you misunderstand which situation is to apply.

    It’s like the story of the minister who would open a page of the bible at random each day to find guidance. One day he happened across “And he went and hanged himself.” Not quite so sure, he opened the book again, and got “Go ye and do likewise.”

    As discussed in a recent thread, there is no guarantee that there will not be further apostasy; there are even procedures in the D&C for dealing with prophets who are leading the church astray, and certainly before there were any fallen high priests in Israel, traditional Restoration theology would say there were once true high priests, and the people never grasped when things changed.

    So, I’ll repeat my question, hopefully with a better framework expressed for what I mean. Do you obey if you no longer believe that the leaders are engaging in RIGHTEOUS dominion, i.e., engaging in mere unrighteous control?

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  41. Ray on August 10, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Brian, that quote was followed by a clear statement that it meant we should embrace truth no matter the source – that we are supposed to have a lock on all truth because we are supposed to accept all truth, even what we currently don’t understand.

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  42. Brian on August 10, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    Clear as mud, Ray. I have no idea what a lock on truth is.

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  43. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Brian,

    I was playing off of Mike’s statement. The 13th article of faith pretty much sums it up.

    All Truth comes from HF and Jesus and we are His Church.

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  44. Ray on August 11, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    Got it, Brian. I mis-read the “?”. Sorry.

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  45. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    FireTag,

    So you are saying that if your church has become apostate then do you still adhere to certain commandments directed toward that church? Let the Spirit guide I suppose.

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  46. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Jeff:
    “So what would be the viable alternative? Allow people to act any way they chose and still be completely worthy?”

    Yes…let chaos reign…mwa-ha-ha-ha.

    J/k – no, I’m not a universalist or anarchist. I think it matters if someone is worthy to receive blessings from God.

    The question is how the principles around tithing are being taught by the church, and the associated access through tithing specifically, as church defined standards (10% of income) become worthiness measures for everyone’s unique situations. Is that consistent with Christ’s parable of the Widow’s mite?

    Jeff: “Especially when the scriptures themselves are crystal clear on this issue?”

    Really? Then why has it evolved so much since the organization of the church?

    According to Quinn:
    “In December 1837 [Bishop Partridge] defined tithing as 2 percent of one’s net worth, after deducting debts. ‘Believing that voluntary tithing is better than Forced taxes,’ the Missouri bishopric defined it as ‘two cents on the dollar or one fiftieth of what we are worth after deducting what we owe.’”
    -The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power

    From there it became more strict and more strict, with BYoung stating that failure to pay was grounds for excommunication.

    I am grateful it has continued to change, and they no longer ex people for not paying…as the membership of the church would drop by 60% [SWAG].

    Certainly the principles are taught in the scriptures. Clearly, the practice and policy of doing it is not spelled out clear, or we have a church that doesn’t know how to read clear scriptures and changes it over and over despite scriptures being clear about it.

    No, my argument is that the principle is there in the scriptures. The emphasis placed on that and WOW are troublesome for me mostly because it is not teaching the correct principles, which Hawkgrrrl presented some of in terms of detachment.

    Gone are the days to teach saints to give willingly with no thought of reward. Now the message is, give willingly so you can be rewarded and avoid the angel of destruction (or the exclusion of participating in gospel ordinances, whichever comes first).

    So, what is a viable alternative? Look around. Christian, muslim, Jewish and other faiths preach this tithing principle. We have multiple alternatives to consider in how to practice the principle. I believe in the United States, of evangelical churches that preach a 10% tithing, only 2% of its members strictly adhere to it.

    Are they just lazy in enforcement? Not know what the scriptures say? Or, perhaps, do other churches emphasize it differently? There are alternatives.

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  47. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Heber13,

    From wiktionary.org

    Noun
    tithe (plural tithes)
    1. (archaic) A tenth.
    2. The tenth part of the increase arising from the profits of land and stock, allotted to the clergy for their support, as in England, or devoted to religious or charitable uses. Almost all the tithes of England and Wales are commuted by law into rent charges. Concept originates in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).
    3. A contribution to one’s religious community or congregation of worship.
    4. A small part or proportion.

    D&C 119
    4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.

    Hebrews 7
    4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

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  48. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Tithe:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe

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  49. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Thanks Jon.

    Ok, so, tenth of my spoils.

    How do I live that in my life?

    Where are the scriptures about not baptizing my son if I don’t tithe my spoils?

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  50. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Heber13,

    Your insistence reminds me of Simon who was baptized but then wanted to how the power of the priesthood, and thought he could buy it, but his heart was not in the right place and was rebuked. Paying tithes is nothing more than to see if your heart is in the right place.

    When you are baptized into an organization you agree to the rules that are followed. You may not like them but you voluntarily signed up for them. Like I disagree with needing to follow the WoW in order to go to the temple but out of unities sake I do my best to follow the WoW and the current guidelines. If you wish to participate and something you are doing is stopping you from full participation, for unities sake, it might behoove you to follow those guidelines. The church cannot give you salvation, only you yourself can come to God. The church is only an instrument, it is not perfect, neither are any of us. But for unities sake sometimes it is better to adhere to certain rules.

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  51. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Heber13,

    Sometimes it is better to look at the good rather than hold onto the cynicism in ourselves.

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  52. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Heber13,

    “Yes…let chaos reign…mwa-ha-ha-ha.’

    OK, so you don’t have any other alternative….

    “Really? Then why has it evolved so much since the organization of the church?”

    I was referring to scriptures telling us to keep the Commandments. i believe that came from Jesus.

    I try to think simply about this stuff. Paying tithing IS a commandment. Just like chastity, being honest, etc. Whatever happened or evolved from history is very interesting but does not really apply to us. Tithing is commandment here and now.

    Since you do not have a viable alternative, what is the problem with following commandments to perform ordinances?

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  53. Paul on August 11, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    #46: On the timing of tithing changes, Section 119, which formalized tithing in the latter-day, was received in 1838, after Partidge’s declaration.

    I’ll trust the Lord’s revelation. You, of course, may do as you like.

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  54. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Jon, I respect your position. And I’m used to hearing that position at church frequently.

    No need to judge me based on my opinions I’ve shared. I’m a temple recommend holder, and understand and actually am living by submitting to the commandments given to me. But when I think deeply about what I’m doing, I see I have to look past what is taught at church, and find my deeper meaning to obeying these commandments on my own, because your position and what I hear at church does not sustain me in my faith. It falls a bit short for me. So I take what I have at church, and try to add to it, not throw out tithing because I have an issue on the emphasis the church puts on it.

    I thought this was a discussion around Hawkgrrl’s post:
    “IMO, we’ve become culturally misaligned with the intended meaning of this gospel principle. To the tithe-giver, tithing (like most acts of faith) is about relinquishing control, not about creating a new avenue for control.”

    I am in agreement with HG. Our culture is misaligned. I’m not anti-tithing, or the anti-Lord’s revelations…I’m just agreeing with Hawk in my own words (not hers).

    I don’t disagree with tithing, I’m challenging your arguments as to whether you can take quoted scriptures, and then take the next step to state that makes our tithing policy in this church crystal clear. To me, it doesn’t. And to fall back on the argument I should just obey to look good or for the sake of unity in the church, well, that is not good defense of truth that should hold up on its own merits. That is just more control, again, something Hawkgrrrl is discussing in the post.

    I’m all for having our hearts in the right place, including not judging others who have alternative opinions, which is something else our culture often gets misaligned with.

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  55. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    #53, Paul.

    D&C 119 says we “shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.”

    Are we living the law as per the revelation?

    Seems to me the church still needs to clarify these scriptures for us, so the church leaders prayerfully update the handbooks, and we need personal revelation on these. Have the church leaders been wrong before (think Priesthood)? So, am I warranted to question things myself, or must I just submit to the control of the church and not question things?

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  56. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    #52, Jeff:

    I think there are viable options. Plenty of ‘em. As other churches do, tithing is taught and voluntarily adhered to.

    Another alternative: How about a worthiness interview? If I’m not paying tithing, but my heart is in the right place and I’m worthy to perform the baptism of my son, then allow it. Put tithing in line with all the other commandments we are asked to keep, like “Thou Shalt Not Lie.” How do I know if I’m worthy of baptising my son if sometimes I stretch the truth? I would think a bishop would want to know how bad I was lying, if it was something so bad, it would deem me unworthy to participate.

    So what if I pay tithing often, but sometimes can’t afford to. There is no judgment there on my heart and my circumstances? I am either 10% of income giver, or I’m not worthy…no matter what else I’m doing in my life?

    Do we not trust the bishops can receive revelation and spiritual guidance, so we need Pharasaic-type rules?

    What about Pres Packer’s message:
    ““Young man, your father will ordain you, and you’ll live to thank the Lord for this day.”

    Then the father came forward.

    Thank goodness he was an elder. Had he not been, he soon could have been! In the military they would call that a battlefield commission. Sometimes such things are done in the Church.

    The father did not know how to ordain his son. I put my arm around him and coached him through the ordinance. When he was finished, the young man was an elder. Then something wonderful happened. Completely changed, the father and son embraced. It was obvious that had never happened before.

    The father, through his tears, said, “I didn’t get to ordain my other boys.”

    Think how much more was accomplished than if another had ordained him, even an Apostle.”
    -April 2010 General Conference

    Do we place obedience to lesser commandments above the Greatest Commandments? Do we look past the mark on what the commandments should be helping us achieve?

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  57. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Heber13,

    Your writings portray a different message then what you are saying now.

    I presented an argument that Hawkgrrl’s original position isn’t correct since the scriptures clearly state the reward/punishment paradigm. This paradigm might be good for some people but there is a higher law to learn and it is only through the individual that we can attain it, although it is good when the organization teaches it also.

    The ultimate reward for a good life, obeying commandments, and using the atonement in ones life is eternal life is also taught. Is that bad? Should we be good because we want eternal life? It’s not a bad reason, but ultimately, if you achieve it you achieve it because of love, if the reward teaches people to love then is it such a bad thing?

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  58. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 11, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    I personally think God has multiple modes of communicating with us and that each model proposed above has a quantum state where it is correct.

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  59. Paul on August 11, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    #55: Why do you assume if there’s a change that those who came before were wrong? I think it’s more likely that there was inconsistency in the application of the principle of tithing worthiness and the latest handbooks allow for greater consistency, just as President Monson said in his remarks in the first trainging broadcast. It may be different for some and it may be less restrictive for others.

    I don’t get your suggestion of a worthiness interview. We have those now.

    As for Elder Packer’s example, I expect he could still do that today. An apostle has considerably more latitude than a local leader, and it is appropriate that he should.

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  60. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Jon, (#57), yes if reward teaches good things, that is good. I would hope for the true church teaching not just good, but better and best principles also. I long for more “better and best” on Sunday. You make a good point that the higher law is found individually. I agree with that.

    Paul (#59), I am not saying changes mean things were wrong…and I’m grateful for continuing revelation that continues to clarify. Accepting the need for that is why I feel the scriptures are not crystal clear about it…it requires continuing revelation. That is the same thing as saying it is not perfect now, and could be better. That is the basis for why I don’t just say, “The Lord said it in D&C 119, so no further discussion needed, just obey.” It is not about pointing out flaws and saying the church was wrong. It is more about thinking independently to acknowledge our culture sometimes gets misaligned, and we can progress with new ideas and ways to look at the scriptures.

    As for your response to Elder Packer…you may be correct. Local leadership doesn’t have the latitude to follow the spirit…they just follow rules. That may be realistic and necessary, even if not perfect or optimal.

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  61. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Heber13,

    “Local leadership doesn’t have the latitude to follow the spirit…they just follow rules.’

    Aside from the fact that this is a thoroughly cynical outlook, it is simply not true. The new policies have given significant latitude to local leaders, which isn’t so much of a change as a written clarification.

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  62. Ray on August 11, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    It’s interesting how Heber is being criticized largely for things he hasn’t said – or that he said with qualifiers, like “perhaps” – “you may be correct” . . .

    I mean that. Most of the criticism of Heber in the last few comments is about things he actually didn’t say. Re-read his comments slowly and carefully, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

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  63. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Ray,

    I think you are over-reaching a bit on this one.

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  64. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Heber13:

    “Put tithing in line with all the other commandments we are asked to keep, like “Thou Shalt Not Lie.” ”

    It is. No one checks, it is our word we give about wheher we are a full-tithe payer.

    “Do we not trust the bishops can receive revelation and spiritual guidance, so we need Pharasaic-type rules?”

    It seems to me it is those that are critical of the “rules” that tend to make them appear “Pharisaical.” In practice, there is much more latitude for local leaders.

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  65. Jeff Spector on August 11, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    BTW, just for the record since everyone like to use the term “Pharisaical,” including me.

    It means to expand a commandment beyond its intention, not just follow it. It’s looking beyond the mark.

    Some examples:

    Jewish practice:
    - Don’t shop on the Sabbath leads to: Don’t carry Money because you might be tempted to shop.
    - Pray loudly and in public so everyone can see how pious you are.

    Mormon Practice:
    - have a year’s supply – A three years supply is even better.
    - 10% tithing on your increase. I’ll pay 13% and it will bring more blessings

    I could go on and on. let’s not lump Pharisaical observance to something it is not.

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  66. Ray on August 11, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Actually, Jeff, I don’t think I am. Take your own response in #61:

    Paul actually implied (or stated directly) in #59 that local leaders essentially “follow the rules” in cases like the example with Elder Packer. Heber responded that “… (Paul) may be correct. Local leadership doesn’t have the latitude to follow the spirit…they just follow rules. That may be realistic and necessary, even if not perfect or optimal.”

    You then told Heber HIS view was cynical and not correct – when he only said that someone else MAY have been correct – that it MAY be realistic and necessary.

    I can tell you that I personally have heard Priesthood leaders say exactly what Paul said – that it’s OK for an apostle to do something like that, but that it’s no OK for a local leader to do so. I also believe that it MIGHT be better that local leaders not be able to make sweeping exceptions to the rules in the CHI, even as I do want them to be able to make individual exceptions.

    Heber seems to want the same thing (that limiting local leaders isn’t the ideal) and seems to be lamenting that it is not so in some others’ minds.

    In that same #59, Paul said: “Why do you assume if there’s a change that those who came before were wrong?” Heber never said he made that assumption – and his response in #60 made that clear.

    In #53, Paul said: “I’ll trust the Lord’s revelation. You, of course, may do as you like.” Heber never said anything that even implied he doesn’t trust the Lord’s revelation. In fact, what he is doing is questioning whether or not we actually are living those revelations – which is a totally different thing than Paul’s charge.

    “Right” or “wrong” aside, all I’m saying is that most of the actual “charges” in the last few comments are based more on what people assumed Heber was saying than on what he actually wrote.

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  67. Ray on August 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    Otoh, #64 and #65 don’t fit what I just said. :D

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  68. hawkgrrrl on August 11, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Jeff, thanks for the clarifying comment on Pharisees. I do think any rule-loving religion is prone to some types who overdo the rules as a sign of their uber-observance or to obtain even more blessings.

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  69. hawkgrrrl on August 11, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Should have finished my thought. Those that are wondering whether teaching “give to get” is just the best way to motivate people who aren’t ready to let go of their lust for wealth, I’m not sure it works like that. Does our attachment to wealth decrease just because we try to get it through blessings rather than work? I think people are perfectly capable of lusting after blessings in the same way. Isn’t it promoting the same spiritual problem?

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  70. Heber13 on August 11, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Rereading things, I appreciate Ray’s comments, as I didn’t think I said some of those things either. But I’ll admit, I can understand if I came across a bit too cynical. A sucky day at work will do that to me .

    Its a topic I think about alot, as I have felt a bit burned in the past thinking I deserved to get some help in a family crisis after a lifetime of tithing and callings…and didn’t think I got any help. I’ve had to work through that and remember it isn’t about the getting, but the giving. But I got burned because I bought into the message the church taught me, or at least, I took that message from church, and never had anyone warn me otherwise…I had to learn it the hard way. Such is life. Anyway…that’s kinda where I’m coming from on this, and my peace has come through letting go of controlling influences in my life, including guilt from church for things I should not feel guilty about, and Hawkgrrrl’s post struck that chord with me.

    Thanks for the discussion, Jeff. I always enjoy your posts.

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  71. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    hawkgrrrl,

    How do you explain the scriptures that do the carrot and the stick then? I know for my personality it doesn’t really work, but for others, maybe it’s good for them, I don’t know. I’m just saying the scriptures say something different then what you are saying, or at least there is more nuance to it. Either way I agree we do need to reach the detachment spoken of so we can live like Christ, Job, etc.

    But, maybe, the carrot is good for those that are on the road, and different people are at different points in their lives. Maybe, spiritually it starts at one point and leads on to a different one, like a child growing to adulthood. Different progressions. Or, maybe, people respond differently to different things and some need the carrot to feel progress.

    Either way, I am glad to know that eternal life is a carrot, it is nice to know that my labors and searching will lead somewhere. Although the journey is just as important it is comforting to believe that there is an afterlife.

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  72. Jon on August 11, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    When I lived in UT, I sold a car to a man that was a convert to the church and worked in the temple. One day some new neighbors moved in and everyone was off putting to the neighbors. He then left the church and complained that the church was just ritual oriented but didn’t bring people to a life of charity. I think he missed the point of the ordinances, the symbols, and the meanings. If one doesn’t choose to search for the truth and understand for himself then I can understand how people would think things are “Pharisaical” even though, if understood, are not, or at least, not if you are searching and trying to understand the mysteries of God.

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  73. Jeff Spector on August 12, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    Heber13,

    I also enjoy the dialog.

    “as I have felt a bit burned in the past thinking I deserved to get some help in a family crisis after a lifetime of tithing and callings…and didn’t think I got any help. ”

    I totally understand what you mean here. Sometimes, it appears that observance is viewed as strength to the point where a need is not met because everyone thinks we can handle it ourselves. That most of the help is reserved for the weak, less observant folks.

    I am aware of a friend who was counseled by the Bishop to take some help because they had contributed all these years and since they needed the help, it was their turn. She reluctantly took it. Part of that some from having to humble ourselves to accept help, I guess.

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  74. Jeff Spector on August 12, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    Ray,

    “Actually, Jeff, I don’t think I am. Take your own response in #61: ”

    Sorry, if you thought that, it was not my intention. But, you are well aware that many people around the bloggernacle claim that no one follows the spirit, just the rules. You and I, I’m even sure Heber, don’t believe that totally. So, it was reacting to that statement.

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  75. Jeff Spector on August 12, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    Heber13,

    “Anyway…that’s kinda where I’m coming from on this, and my peace has come through letting go of controlling influences in my life, including guilt from church for things I should not feel guilty about”

    The Gospel is supposed to be a source of joy in our lives, not a burden. And while we are imperfect human beings, we tend to be very hard on ourselves. And the last thing I want is a “fire and brimstone” recitation on how bad we are, need to repent and do better,etc. All the while we are taught that obedience brings forth blessings.

    Well, I know that it does, but I also struggle with the idea of doing things for the right reasons, not because of a reward.

    but, I think I have discovered that that is what is taught at Church, perhaps for those that need a motivation. Once in a while you’ll hear a talk about doing things for the right reasons, but it is rarer than the “give to get” talks.

    You were right about that.

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  76. Heber13 on August 12, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    #72, Jon…I think you made a good point. The ordinances, symbols, and commandments (like tithing) don’t have to be Pharisaical, in fact they have proven to be life changing for so many people which is why the church grows…but sometimes some people put emphasis in the wrong place, and that is when they begin to lose their power, IMO. All are designed to help us become more Christ-like, but it is up to us to make that happen in our lives, the church just gives the tools we can use.

    I think most people are more likely to use tithing as a stepping stool when they are doing all the other things, like loving neighbors, obeying out of love, serving others in need. There are many examples of this in the church. But like your post said, just obeying doesn’t do it. We have examples in the church of people who obey to be seen or for their ego to get gain. It is like fasting without your heart in it…it becomes just starving and then there is no reward for that obedience. It is hollow.

    Is is possible the church perpetuates the behavior because the temple standards create a minimum standard…and that becomes what is focused on? Would a more lax enforcement and more emphasis on voluntary donations produce a different behavior?

    The scriptures say give 10%. But the policy and enforcement drives behaviors that may not be celestial. That is how modern revelation can help drive change to improve things so the real purposes of God can be achieved.

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  77. Heber13 on August 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    #75, Jeff:

    the other factor is that people are wired differently. Where I long for deeper meaning and am unfulfilled by simply “give to get” teachings, there are many others that roll their eyes when I start making conversation about the deeper meanings of things…because that doesn’t appeal to THEM. They like the rules, they want the leaders to tell them what is acceptable by the Lord, so they can know what to do and move on with life with confidence.

    It is interesting that human nature seems to be that way, and want to give up freedoms to have security and ease of life. Nephi would warn the people about not wanting a king, but the people wanted to give control to the king. It seems to me that Christ was mostly teaching about being co-dependent on God, not on authority, rules, and power.

    Maybe the gospel has something for everyone. A little control with things like Tithing and WoW for those that need limits, a little teaching about sacrifice brings blessings for those that need hope, and still plenty of beautiful doctrine for us to blog about all day long for those that want to seek detachment from earthly ordinances that only symbolize truth.

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  78. Jon on August 12, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Heber13,

    Yes, we need not be “whited sepuchres” (now I know what FireTag was referring to, I had forgotten that was in the quote, not even sure what a whited sepulcher is – but I think I get the gist of what the verse is trying to say) as the scripture says below. I still don’t see what is wrong with a minimum standard for the temple, should we take away the criteria that one should believe in Christ? Should we take away the requirement that if you have any problem that you should present before the bishop be done so now? I think it is a wonderful opportunity to help me keep on the straight and narrow. Though, actual temple attendance after receiving the recommend is more important since additional insights on covenant making can be gained with an emphasis on communion with God. At least those are some of the things I get out of the temple.

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone….Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

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  79. Paul on August 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    #66: Ray, I step away for an evening and I’m parsed to pieces…

    “Paul actually implied (or stated directly) in #59 that local leaders essentially “follow the rules” in cases like the example with Elder Packer.” The case with Elder Packer has been made clear in the latest CHI, so if a local leader is going to follow the counsel of the CHI, then he’s not going to do what Elder Packer did. But local leaders use the influence of the spirit all the time, from assigning talks to extending callings to offering counsel to ward and stake members. I never said they may not follow the spirit. That was Heber13. Parse his words, not mine.

    “In that same #59, Paul said: “Why do you assume if there’s a change that those who came before were wrong?”” The reason I asked that question is because Heber13 said in #55: “Have the church leaders been wrong before (think Priesthood)?” My apologies if I lept to a conclusion that Heber13 believes the priesthood restriction was not a mistake, but based on his statement I thought it was a logical leap, his comment in #60 notwithstanding.

    “In #53, Paul said: “I’ll trust the Lord’s revelation. You, of course, may do as you like.”” I said Heber13 could do what he likes, including also trusting in revelation. I did not limit what he could do, nor did I imply that he believed one way or another.

    “…all I’m saying is that most of the actual “charges” in the last few comments are based more on what people assumed Heber was saying than on what he actually wrote.” Your call, I guess. But I don’t see that I made any charges.

    I certainly didn’t intend to, and if you or Heber 13 perceived otherwise, then I apologize.

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  80. jmb275 on August 12, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Awesome post Hawk! That’s why I love you to death! Also a lot of great comments.

    I have a few thoughts:

    The church’s focus has probably come about because people aren’t always motivated by personal growth, which is a spiritual endeavor. Some people are simply incapable of being motivated by anything but fear, guilt, promised rewards, or peer pressure, all of which seem like religious (but not spiritual) motivators. I’m not sure that’s a very good justification for our method of teaching tithing, though. Is it the tithing that matters or the tithers?

    I think this captures my view of the situation. It also captures my view of the church in a general sense, and probably most religions too. If we were motivated by personal growth what would we do with injunctions like the WoW, our “modesty” standards, etc. As Mike has touched on in other posts, most of these miss the mark IMHO. Each of those injunctions have the potential to lead to personal growth, but that’s not what’s emphasized, and, most importantly, not what they do for me personally. Rather, we are told there will be personal growth by being obedient (and I find it hard to believe that great personal growth can come from merely being obedient, otherwise I think Lucifer’s proposal was a slam dunk).

    Ray touched on this a bit and made a good point:

    There is an inherent, paradoxical tension between “there is a law, irrevocably decreed . . .” and detachment – and, ironically, I believe both principles…I just think we often have no freaking clue what the “blessings” are that are attached to “obedience” – and, often, even what form true obedience takes.

    I appreciate this viewpoint, although I don’t agree with it. I think detachment has problems with it if carried to it’s logical conclusion. So I don’t think that’s all there is. But I also have a hard time with the idea of “a law, irrevocably decreed.” It’s not the concept I have trouble with (and thereby could accept the paradox) it’s the implementation, the conundrum of knowing which laws are irrevocably decreed and how/why we think so. I would quickly jump to obey God’s laws if I knew they came from God. But therein lies the human condition and the roots of nearly all religions, both good and bad (including cults :-) ).

    From Mike:

    The talks we hear are about tithing being a principle for the GIVER. If this were true it would not matter where you gave the money. In reality, tithing is about the giving to the correct RECIPIENT.

    This is ultimately the big problem I have with tithing. So much so that the only benefits I get from paying it are that I get to be a member in full standing. I accept that internal emotional price and so I pay. But I confess, I do have a raw negative emotional response when I contemplate this point. It rubs me the wrong way on so many levels. In my underdeveloped and very loosey-goosey view of God, He doesn’t give a damn if we pay to an authorized organization or some homeless guy down the street. Or rather, He might prefer we give it to the homeless guy!!! Of course then you wouldn’t obtain His “highest blessings.” What a mind job!

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  81. jmb275 on August 12, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Oh and BTW, Hawk, I resent the term control freak! I happen to be very very obsessed with control. In fact, I’m doing a PhD on just that topic and consider myself a fully fledged control freak. Planes, robots, cars, machines, you name it!

    ;-) ;-) ;-) ;-)

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  82. Jon on August 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    The institution at ASU had an LDS business class where prominent business leaders from the community would come and talk about religion and the office and ethics. Interesting class. But one of the guys that presented was a motivational speaker who helped wealthy people balance their check books and talked on how he the first thing he did was making sure that had an outgoing 10% to charity. He said it helped them get their finances under control. The law is the law regardless of religion.

    Of course, the scriptures say God’s storehouse. So, after making the covenant with an organization the 10% goes to the organization you covenanted with. Another legislature member advocated, for mormons, 10% tithes and 10% (beyond the first 10%) to charity, whether by the church or private organizations.

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  83. Paul on August 12, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    …if 10% is good, then 20% must be better??

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  84. Jon on August 12, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    I’m not advocating it. Just this one guys opinion that I listened to. By all means, if people want to give more or less please do.

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  85. jmb275 on August 12, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Re Jon

    He said it helped them get their finances under control. The law is the law regardless of religion.

    Meh, I think you conflate good wisdom with a law of God. Perhaps those really are the same, I dunno. If they are, I don’t understand what makes those laws “revelation” when given to our own leaders, and merely “good advice” when taught by other religious leaders. In other words, I think if your point is valid, we open up a discussion for how we know what God’s laws are.

    So, after making the covenant with an organization the 10% goes to the organization you covenanted with.

    Dang, I thought I was making covenants with God when I did that. If what you say is true, then I really am convinced that the church intends to stand directly between me and God…not unlike Catholicism. I don’t think our church teaches that though.

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  86. Jon on August 12, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    jmb275,

    I know that I have to be on my tows when you’re around. Let’s see if I need to go back on some things here or not.

    I suppose we know what God’s laws are when we are told it is by the spirit and by the fruits (as the BoM says, am I missing anything there?). I don’t think it really matters who it is given to, whether each individual or a person in charge, whether it be a person in the church or out, if it comes from God then it is from God (like the circular logic there?). Is tithes an eternal law? I don’t know.

    Dang, I thought I was making covenants with God when I did that.

    Yes, covenants with God to support His organization/commandments. Makes me think of covenants in the temple. Same concept. Sorry for the poor wording on my part.

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  87. jmb275 on August 12, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Is tithes an eternal law? I don’t know.

    I think the principle is a good principle. Not sure if it’s from God. He hasn’t told me ;-) ! If He does I’ll be sure to advertise it.

    Yes, covenants with God to support His organization/commandments. Makes me think of covenants in the temple. Same concept. Sorry for the poor wording on my part.

    Yeah, this is probably the one qualm I have with the temple. I was enjoying myself so so much until that part about consecrating everything to an organization. The whole thing lost me after that. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the temple, but I have a REALLY hard time with organizations attempting to weasel their way in between me and God. But my views are pretty far outside the box, so you should probably just ignore me. As a hint, for example, I don’t believe Jesus set up a church at all (hence intrinsically nullifying the concept of a restoration). I think Paul setup a church a long time after the fact.

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  88. Jeff Spector on August 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    JMB,

    “I think Paul setup a church a long time after the fact.’

    Now this is an interesting comment. The Christian world, including LDS literally worship Paul. I think I did a post on that a while back. He’s more than 1/2 the New Testament. Any other situation this would be a red flag…..

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  89. Heber13 on August 12, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    jmb, you’re a stud. In a few short posts, you made some points I was trying to get at, but was unable to.

    It is not so clear how the scriptures teach this and if its a good principle or commandment from God, and how our church practices it compared to other christian churches. Yet although there can be some question, we put such a high emphasis on it in our church.

    In my opinion, the current tithing commandment and word of wisdom are both defined with a specific standard, which the other temple recommend interviews don’t have.

    I liken it to if the church defined in the CHI that belief in Christ (see Jon’s #78) to a standard, such as taking the sacrament once a week, and if you do not take it once a week, you are not worthy to go to the temple or baptize your son. We can see that this is a good thing, we can see there are scriptures that support we should do this…none of that is the issue, the issue is that they come up with a specific measurable requirement that you must meet. Even if the principle of believing in Christ can be done in other ways than just taking the sacrament, that is the line drawn in the sand.

    Not all commandments have that requirement to enter the temple or baptize your son.

    Tithing and Word of Wisdom do. I’m not sure why and what requires that requirement and distinction from other commandments and minimum standards we covenant to keep.

    For tithing, I think its because the church needed the money in the past, and had to make it stringent. They had to put controls in to get the results. Now we just keep it that way because it doesn’t seem we need to change it.

    For Word of Wisdom…that one escapes me totally. Coffee, tea? These don’t have significant rewards tied to these laws that I can see. It is just obedience. I’m saddened it is such an arbitrary requirement that we put such a big emphasis on.

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  90. Jeff Spector on August 12, 2011 at 9:31 PM

    Heber13,

    “It is just obedience.”

    Ask Kosher Jews that question and they will tell you exactly the same answer.

    The Lord does not need our money as much as we need to sacrifice it.

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  91. Douglas on August 12, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    I liked the post wherein there was concern about OVERemPHAsis (on the wrong sylLABel?) on achievement and prosperity (e.g., if you’re not making it “large”, then forget being a bishop or on the high council, there must be something “wrong” with you).
    Certainly nothing wrong with working to support one’s family to the best of our abilities, would to “Gawd” that more in this country felt that way! Nor anything wrong with education, preparation, and risk taking to improve one’s earning ability. But it’s not EVERYTHING. “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world…”
    I never mind the stories about the proverbial “wolf at the door”, and yet, instead of fending off the wolf with the funds on hand that were designated for tithing, the faithful member made his/her timely payments and let the Lord take care of the “wolf”. Still, I get concerned for two things when I hear anecdotes of this nature:
    (1) Members get lax or careless about their financial due diligence, thinking that no matter the choice(s) they make, “Gawd” will protect them from their own stupidity as long as the tithes are paid out. Ain’t necessarily so!
    (2) Are we paying tithing because we believe it to be a commandment, believing that “Gawd” loves us and knows what we NEED (not necessarily what we want!) and looks out for our best interests, or do we pay it to be MATERIALLY blessed? My own experience is that my financial successes and failures were ultimately a result of my decision(s), even if the consequences, both bad and good, couldn’t be foreseen. It’s not that I don’t give “Gawd” the credit for the good, but even the “bad”, though often painful at the time, has ultimately worked for my “good” (painful experiences can be great lessons). What I give “Gawd” (or more respectfully, Heavenly Father) CREDIT for is giving me a sound mind, relatively healthy body, a good family, and the best country of all time (well, it’s actually the worst country of all time, except for ALL the others!) to make my way in. The rest has been up to me, and it ain’t done.

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  92. hawkgrrrl on August 13, 2011 at 1:46 AM

    Jon asked a serious question: “How do you explain the scriptures that do the carrot and the stick then? . . . the scriptures say something different then what you are saying, or at least there is more nuance to it.” That deserves a thoughtful answer. Here are some possibilities I will offer, given that the scriptures contain both (examples of carrot & stick principle and examples of detachment principle):
    1) There are different authors & editors writing these different scriptures at different times and places, thus with a different focus.
    2) The carrot & stick examples are descriptive of what happens when you detach from the lust for riches (he who shall lose his life for my sake shall find it, etc.), not intended as the motivation to detach from wealth.
    3) God &/or prophets get fed up with trying to get weaklings to obey the higher law and like all parents eventually lose their cool and use whatever means necessary to motivate desired behaviors (e.g. bribery, manipulation, threats). This is the Aaron / Golden Calf approach. “You’re not ready to receive the higher law? Fine, I’ll give you a Gold Calf to worship, and then make you drink it!” And drink it, we will.
    4) The church consists of 20% who are living the higher (celestial) law, but 80% who are living the earthly best (terrestrial) law (well, I’m sure there are a few telestial folks, too, but this is just a made up statistical split). In order for the church to support all its membership, though, everyone (certainly more than the 20%) has to pay up. But the ones doing it for the wrong reasons are not really progressing toward godhood, just a really nice terrestrial afterlife reward.

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  93. Jon on August 13, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    jmb,

    To what purpose was the “church” restored then if no church is needed?

    I’ve had a problems conceptualizing a one true church too. Since it is obvious the direction any church would take that claims it is the only true church. Just like any organization that claims a monopoly the natural consequence is bureaucracy, corruption, and control. Whether our church has this problem is beside the point, it’s just a natural consequence. Hence the reason competition, in all things is important, hence (one of) the reason(s) I’m a voluntarist.

    So what makes the church return to its roots to avoid the monopoly problem? The scriptures point to persecutions (wars) and, in at least one instance, competition. Like with Noah and the priests, who claimed the gospel, received competition from Alma, who split from the main body of the church. Is there persecution and/or competition today with the church?

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  94. Jon on August 13, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    hawkgrrrl,

    I think the scripture this scripture sums it up:

    Matt. 23:23,27,28

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone….Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

    Although tithe is important there are more important matters of righteousness. The inward vessel is most important.

    But the carrot and stick are stilled used:

    Matt. 23:13,33

    But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

    Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

    I still opine that it gives me great comfort to know that I can live with loved ones after this life. I know that detachment is supposed to even detach one from family and unify one with God. Maybe one day I’ll reach that level of enlightenment, but in the journey, I am happy with that carrot.

    I wonder too, if people will have this carnal mind, and with the carrot and stick, will one day, as they seek God and understand the gospel better, will be able to leave those behind. So does the preaching of these things reflect on the leaders of the church or on its flock?

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  95. Paul on August 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    #94: “Although tithe is important there are more important matters of righteousness. The inward vessel is most important.”

    I suppose that’s why a worthiness interview includes much more than just a discussion of tithing.

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  96. hawkgrrrl on August 14, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    “I know that detachment is supposed to even detach one from family and unify one with God. Maybe one day I’ll reach that level of enlightenment, but in the journey, I am happy with that carrot.” Yes, I agree that detachment from interpersonal ties goes a little far for my taste as well. Although the caution not to attach to our children and try to live our lives through them is well worth noting on the other extreme.

    “So does the preaching of these things reflect on the leaders of the church or on its flock?” This could be its own post topic. I think both. People preach what they want to hear. But people in our church also have a tendency to deify the leaders and take every stray morsel from their lips as binding counsel, even when leaders don’t intend it.

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  97. jacobhalford on August 15, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Great post, Hawkgrrl, and an interesting discussion.

    Something that this made me think about is, why do we feel the need to control? What is it that makes us want to bind God to bless us? IMO, people tend to want to control when they either feel out of control or over controlled. For instance, eating disorders such as anorexia are all about controlling food intake, because they don’t feel they can control any other part of their life. I wonder if tithing is like that, if we portray God as controlling and being highly involved in our lives then it leaves little room for our own control over our lives. As a result we focus on a part that makes us feel like we are in control again as when we portray a god that dictates what we wear, drink, eat, do, it can create a climate of being controlled by Gods commandments. So tithing is a great way of feeling in control once again.

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  98. jmb275 on August 15, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    Re Heber13

    For tithing, I think its because the church needed the money in the past, and had to make it stringent. They had to put controls in to get the results. Now we just keep it that way because it doesn’t seem we need to change it.

    Yeah, that’s my take on it too. That and that it now has the full weight of revelation, God’s stamp of approval etc. primarily due to tradition.

    Re Jeff

    “I think Paul setup a church a long time after the fact.’

    Now this is an interesting comment. The Christian world, including LDS literally worship Paul. I think I did a post on that a while back. He’s more than 1/2 the New Testament. Any other situation this would be a red flag…..

    I realize this is a tangent, but I do remember that post. I’m also not convinced that Jesus ever had any intention of starting a new religion. I think he wanted to reform Judaism. But I’m no NT scholar, that’s for sure.

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  99. jmb275 on August 15, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Re Jon
    Sorry for the late response, it was a hectic weekend.

    To what purpose was the “church” restored then if no church is needed?

    Well, I see two main possibilities:
    1. In reality, Joseph was a part of a time period in which religious ferver, particularly for restoration was becoming popular. The commonly held idea (still held) is that Jesus started a church, called 12 apostles, died, and left those apostles to carry on the work and church. Those apostles died off and authority and many teachings were lost. Note that during that time, there wasn’t nearly as much information about the timing, actual dates of people living, etc. so there was little reason to even consider that Paul and others came years after. Of course now we have some of that info but habitually ignore it. Read a book by Bart Ehrman and you’ll understand what I mean. So Joseph thought he was “restoring” that church, that authority, those teachings. But he wasn’t, not really anyway. It was all just part of Joseph’s brilliance, his capacity to spiritually innovate. But, much like the BoM, it’s not really historically true, or accurate, Joseph just thought it all was (or he made it all up, but I doubt that).

    2. Similar to #1, except that while Joseph thought he was restoring a church, he was really restoring a full theology and due to his limited knowledge (as described above) he thought it was the original church started by Jesus. I like this option because it gives a nod to our belief of restoration but frames it in a larger context. It’s also much closer to reality I think. That is, if God reveals His dealings to mankind, “we see through a glass darkly” subject to our own errors, our own interpretations, biases, etc. God has to work within the confines of agency after all.

    I’m not saying either of these are correct, just that those are the two main possibilities I currently munch on.

    I’ve had a problems conceptualizing a one true church too. Since it is obvious the direction any church would take that claims it is the only true church. Just like any organization that claims a monopoly the natural consequence is bureaucracy, corruption, and control. Whether our church has this problem is beside the point, it’s just a natural consequence. Hence the reason competition, in all things is important, hence (one of) the reason(s) I’m a voluntarist.

    I like framing religions in terms of a market. It’s a cool idea. Yes, corruption is definitely a natural consequence. And clearly, if we actually believe the D&C then we know it is the inclination of ALL MEN to abuse their priesthood. Anyway, this is why I’m pretty comfortable claiming to be a pluralist.

    So what makes the church return to its roots to avoid the monopoly problem?…Is there persecution and/or competition today with the church?

    Currently? Nothing. The LDS church does an excellent job at walking the fine line of being too strict, and just strict enough (think of price of entry into a market). In the context of group dynamics this means we have a VERY LARGE and VERY STRONG group. This group marginalizes outsiders and apostates, but still manages to attract people (although with decreasing effectiveness) and retain them. The biggest “competition” or persecution would come from anti-Mormons, or even those who walk the middle (NOMs, unorthodox Mormons, etc.). But Mormonism does such a great job of convincing insiders that outsiders/apostates have gone astray, denied the truth, etc. that this persecution is almost unnoticed, easily brushed aside as sheer lunacy within the group.

    I wouldn’t expect the church to ever return to its roots. It’s not the way corporations evolve generally (and we are a corporation masquerading as a church…literally, though I don’t mean that in a negative way, more of a “matter-of-fact” way). I’m okay with it though. I’m happy with being a part of a generally good organization. As long as I continue to benefit from it, and as long as generally Mormonism produces good people, I’ll stay on board. Currently it does both.

    Sorry for the tangent and long-winded answer. Probably more than you bargained for.

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  100. [...] “Tithing vs. Control” at Wheat and Tares. IMO, the blessing of tithing is the blessing of detachment (or maybe [...]

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