Partial, Full, Exempt, or Loony?

by: hawkgrrrl

December 20, 2011

Recently, we attended tithing settlement and were asked to check the box whether we were Non (didn’t pay), Partial, Full, or Exempt tithe payers.  The bishop mused about how it would be if we did the same evaluation on ourselves in all aspects of our church observance.  (I certainly don’t think he wanted to be involved in such an assessment – like most bishops, he’s barely going to get tithing settlement done by the end of the year!)  Nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting thought experiment as we look at New Year’s Resolutions.  

Upon reflection, I’m not sure this assessment process fits all the commandments.  Some commandments are pass / fail.  Some commandments have even more degrees than this simple ranking system. And it also points out the fact that not all commandments are equal (how do you assess on “tattoos”?  I have a partial tatoo?  I’ve drawn on myself with a pen?  I have a henna tattoo?  and what is “exempt” for a tattoo?  I have no skin?)

The other issue is that you can comply with the letter of the law but fail to grasp the spirit of the law.  Sometimes the spirit of the law is open to interpretation, though.  To consider the tithing example, we declare based on our own understanding whether we are partial, full or exempt (exempt generally would be something the bishop or church has told the person, such as missionaries or those members on church welfare who might be considered exempt based on personal circumstances). 

But that’s only relevant to paying tithing to the church, not whether we are charitable and love others.  It also doesn’t indicate if we are detached from wealth or cling for dear life to the remaining 90% of our earnings.  Several years ago, when I was working in Salt Lake City, our company was doing a charitable giving campaign.  Our SLC office was found to be one of the lowest in terms of donations, company-wide.  When we talked with employees to determine why fewer people were giving to the campaign, many of them cited tithing as a reason they donated less to charity.  They were already giving more money to the church than most people give to charity.

Another example might be the Word of Wisdom.  I suppose a standard answer might be that if you never use alcohol, tobacco, coffee or tea, you are a “full” observer.  What is a partial?  That’s probably completely subjective.  Some might say you are partial if you sometimes drink those things or are trying to quit.  Others might say you are “partial” if you drink herbal tea, energy drinks, diet coke or eat coffee ice cream.  Yet, those superficial indicators may miss the point of the commandment.  Do you actually make healthy choices and show self-mastery through exercise and diet or just “check the box”?  Do you keep your mind clear and alert and ready to receive revelation through the healthy choices you make?

A third example could be keeping the Sabbath day holy, another one that is totally subjective in how we observe it.  Since each member defines what it means for their own family, “partial” probably means do they break their own standard, whereas “full” probably refers to consistency over time.  However, I know plenty of members who think their own definition (usually with super high restrictions) is more righteous than others.  Is it more righteous to force your children to resentfully wear church clothes all day and not play at all or to set the day aside as restful family time while wearing comfortable clothes and enjoying each others’ company?

Consider fasting, another graduated scale of observance.  Most Mormons would say you are “fully observant” if you fast monthly for two meals abstaining from both food and drink.  Some would say this isn’t enough, that it must be 24 hours or longer.  And what is partial?

These examples illustrate the flaw with checklist mentality:  while we might be smugly ultra-observant, in doing so, we usually fail to grasp the purpose of the law and may come into conflict with greater commandments as a result of this approach (as Jesus pointed out so well in his life).  So, where do you fall for various commandments?  Time to declare!  Are you partial, full or exempt?

  • Love thy neighbor as thyself.
  • Love God with all your heart, might, mind and strength.

What about the more ticky tack stuff?  Partial, full or exempt?

  • Read scriptures
  • Pray
  • Magnify your calling
  • Participate in your meetings
  • Observe the Word of Wisdom
  • Be honest in all your dealings
  • Other (do tell!)

Discuss.

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45 Responses to Partial, Full, Exempt, or Loony?

  1. Paul on December 20, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    Well, I guess I’m partial because I’m human. Only the savior’s mercy can make up the difference.

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  2. Michael on December 20, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    You lost me. There is a “commandment” against tattoos?

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  3. Mai Li on December 20, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    May I suggest adding a fourth option to partial, full, exempt, loony? What about never? Or is that covered by loony?

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  4. Jacob M on December 20, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    Genius, hawkgrrrl! This post exemplifies the problems that an obedience heavy rhetoric comes up against when we actually examine what the commandments are. Most of them have levels of subjectivity to them that could never be answered like tithing settlement. Thanks for the reminder!

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  5. Paul on December 20, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    I didn’t know anyone in the mormon blogosphere still went to tithing settlement.

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  6. Justin on December 20, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    What’s required is that members declare their tithing status. We just write a letter to our bishop declaring our status as full-tithe payers — and nix the meeting.

    The main purpose of the sit-down meeting and going over the print-out of moneys received is so members can use that to declare the charitable giving on their taxes.

    However, we give our tithing to the bishop anonymously [without the form] — and wouldn’t file for tax deductions even if they did keep records of our donations.

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  7. Duke of Earl Grey on December 20, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    “Exempt” for a tattoo would include converts who already had one before getting baptized, and possibly Polynesians.

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  8. hmm on December 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    how would the Church itself do on a self assessment?

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  9. Justin on December 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    I also think it would help if we stopped making up boxes to check.

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  10. jmb275 on December 20, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    I’m with Paul #1 on this one. I assume I’m only partial on everything. I most definitely require someone else to make up the difference.

    Re Paul #5-
    Actually I wondered that too. I certainly don’t go on purpose. However, the bishop usually finds a way of asking me anyway. I just think tithing settlement is ridiculous.

    Re Hawk-
    I dunno. I guess I think the post hints to something else. I guess I would wonder how often we, the questioners, have in mind the checklist when we ask the question? Do you keep the law of tithing? I already have in my head what it means to be full, partial, non, etc. And I suspect it’s the same for every commandment/rule. And really, until the culture and mentality change in the church, it will forever be this way. Until we each really really believe that our interpretation of any rule/commandment is subject to interpretation, it will be a problem. And yet, we have a culture that requests official interpretations which we use to judge our fellows with.

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  11. Remlap on December 20, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    “Exempt” for a tattoo would include converts who already had one before getting baptized, and possibly Polynesians. – Why do Polynesians get a pass on tattoos? Because it is part of their culture? Isn’t it part of the American and European Culture now? How many actual commandments are there anyway? Is the WOW a commandment? When did it officially get upgraded from counsel to a commandment? Just because it is a temple recommend question does not necessarily make it a commandment. They use to ask questions about whether you kept your fences in good repair so your cows did not wonder on to your neighbors pasture. Is it against “the commandments” to have more than one earring? I remember when they counseled against pierced ears at all (my mom wore clip on earrings her whole life) Brigham Young counseled against zippers (adulterers pants he called them). When does counsel become a commandment?

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  12. Nick Literski on December 20, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    The LDS church already tried an extensive accounting such as this, during the so-called “Mormon Reformation” circa 1852. Fortunately for bishops at the time, the lengthy questioning was conducted by “ward teachers” (that time period’s version of home teachers, with much larger routes). It didn’t go so well, as many complained that it was unduly invasive, etc.

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  13. Cowboy on December 21, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I agree with the whole subjectivity thing, but to some degree I’m stumped on topics such as tatoo’s, or the Word of Wisdom. From the standpoint of what the “Church” teaches today, can there be any doubt on the “official” position on these issues? So that raises a couple of questions. Most fundamentally, what are commandments and where do they come from? This is problematic particularly for Mormons, because if we go to the popular story on Commandment origins, you have a Prophet who recieved counsel in isolation with God, who then came down and told people what to do. Seeing as how we are “Prophets” kind of Church, it is difficult in my mind to fathom how anyone can dismiss a “Prophets” words, without simultaneously dismissing the Prophet.

    Entertaining for a moment however that a Prophet can speak both the infallable words of God AND the fallable words of dated grandfatherly opinion, how do we tell the difference? That really is the key, particularly given that when Church leaders speak, they make no effort to distinguish the quality of their commandments, but rather seem to usually speak in straightforward command language. Mormons “should do this”, or “should not do that”.

    Robert Millet poses this question in a talk titled “What is our Doctrine”
    http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/study-and-faith-selections-religious-educator/chapter-6-what-our-doctrine

    He talks about a conversation he had with a baptist minister who was politely trying to explain the challenge in understaning what Mormons believe. In the minsters words, according to Millet:

    “Bob, many of my fellow Christians have noted how hard it is to figure out what Mormons believe. They say it’s like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall!”

    I have noticed, as per Deseret New’s faith section, as well as in other sphere’s of Mormon apologetics, this tendency to insist that when people bring up topics such as Blood Atonement, or racism, etc, that the standard response is something along the lines of:

    “well, that is taken out context”

    or

    “not everything spoken in the past is relevant as doctrine today”

    or

    “Define us by who we are and by our central beliefs rather than who we are not or by obscure or irrelevant beliefs,”

    So, we have all these messages criticizing people for all of the wrong way’s for interpreting Mormon doctrine, belief, commandments etc. Still, we have very little useful information regarding how to “correctly” interpret it. Then, what we do get is very subjective even still. Millett for example answers the question thus:

    “3. In determining whether something is a part of the doctrine of the Church, we might ask, Is it found within the four standard works? Within official declarations or proclamations? Is it discussed in general conference or other official gatherings by general Church leaders today? Is it found in the general handbooks or approved curriculum of the Church today? If it meets at least one of these criteria, we can feel secure and appropriate about teaching it.”

    So if it was found in the Standard Works, ie, the selectively assembled literature of “yesterday”, then thumbs up. If it is being talked about in General Conference, or in Church manuals “today” then thumbs up. However, if it is in Church Manuals from yesterday, or from any assortement of Prophetic statements of a former generation, then thumbs down. If it is in the manuals and conferences, quotations, etc, “today”, then…thumbs up today, and thumbs down tomorrow????

    So what are the commandments, and what use is it to speak of commandments, performance, worthiness, etc, if we can’t even define these things in clear terms?

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  14. Justin on December 21, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    LDS should be unique among the Christian religions in not appealing to tradition or wise counsel — but rather in appealing to the word of God.

    Our standard for judgement is the standard works [hence the name]. The “standard” is:

    the authorized exemplar of a unit of measure or weight; e.g. a measuring rod of unit length; a vessel of unit capacity, or a mass of metal of unit weight, preserved in the custody of public officers as a permanent evidence of the legally prescribed magnitude of the unit.

    or

    A prescribed minimum size or amount.

    Instead, we have a church body governed by a group of people who openly proclaim one thing as the “standard” and then covertly enforce a bunch of other things beyond that.

    Look, if the “the inspired counsel of priesthood leaders” and “long-standing church practice”, etc. are actually the standard — then let’s just put them into the standard works — we have an open canon for heaven’s sake.

    But they don’t do that. We get newly published leadership policy documents instead — which are just back-handed admissions that “counsel” is actually not revelation.

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  15. Michael on December 21, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    Cowboy and Justin hit the issue on the head EXACTLY.

    We, as Latter-day Saints, as well as our leaders should NEVER be afraid of the direct sunlight and of unambiguous speech. I vote to bring back the preface “Thus saith the Lord…” If a church leader does not use those words in front of a statement or pronouncement or proclamation or declaration or counsel or any other utterance, it is merely an opinion and non-binding spiritually or culturally.

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  16. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    “I vote to bring back the preface, ‘Thus saith the Lord.'”

    Please, no. Let me rephrase that: “H***, no, please.” I like to be able to take “opinion” and “counsel” and figure out what it means and how it applies to me. I’m fine with an occasional example of strongly worded, direct and unambiguous revelation, but, for the most part, I MUCH prefer the counsel and advice and admonition default mode.

    The very people who complain the loudest that we no longer have prophets like they did back in the day usually are the very people who would complain the loudest (and leave the fastest) if we actually had prophets who acted like they did back in the day.

    Do you seriously want an entire quorum of Bruce R. McConkies and Boyd K. Packers? (and I say that as someone who really likes a lot of what each of those apostles has said over the course of their entire service in the Q12 – albeit not everything or close to everything)

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  17. Cowboy on December 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Ray:

    I would be perfectly fine with that, if I was able to declare my own worthiness. If I felt I was living appropriately in terms of tithing, or the Word of Wisdom, or Church attendance, appropriate attire, etc, then why do I need a Church leader’s help in ascertaining worthiness. If the issue is truly between me and the Lord, then let’s get out of this business of Judging one another ecclesiastically. So long, however, that another person can actually determine my worthiness for me, a clearly demarcated system of commandments is quite necessary. The Church recognizes this, which is why we have statements about modern leaders trumping previous leaders etc. However, that just evades the next logical question of, why these supposedly God-given demarcation lines appear to move.

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  18. jmb275 on December 21, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Re Ray and Cowboy-

    Please, no. Let me rephrase that: “H***, no, please.” I like to be able to take “opinion” and “counsel” and figure out what it means and how it applies to me. I’m fine with an occasional example of strongly worded, direct and unambiguous revelation, but, for the most part, I MUCH prefer the counsel and advice and admonition default mode.

    I really am with you Ray, on this. But I think the church ends up looking passive-aggressive. It doesn’t communicate clearly, it sends mixed messages, but then expects us to meet its expectations and wonders why outsiders can’t nail down the jell-o. I would indeed rather figure out how to apply counsel to myself, but then let me do it without carving out the “right” answer. Otherwise, we need to be clear about our expectations and not be surprised if others find them troubling or people leave because of them.

    This really hearkens back to a post a few weeks ago that Hawk did on temple recommend interviews. If I don’t pay 10% of my gross or net, but determine my “increase” is something else, can I still claim I’m a full tithe payer and feel honest about it?

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  19. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    “If I don’t pay 10% of my gross or net, but determine my “increase” is something else, can I still claim I’m a full tithe payer and feel honest about it?”

    Yes. Period.

    Look, I’m all for baseline commandments – but I don’t want to be commanded in all things. I’d rather have fewer enforced, “thus saith the Lord” rules and more personal accountability. I’m totally fine with the temple recommend questions the way they are right now – since, technically, they are yes/no questions that don’t require explanation and clarification.

    I was responding to the idea that we need more “thus saith the Lord” statements – and I really do think the more of those we got, the harder it would be for most of the people for whom it’s hardest right now. I’m not one of those people, since I’ve worked out a way to be totally at peace with my high level of activity in the Church – but I still want a broader tent than we currently have (a fuller orchestra, to use Elder Wirthlin’s wonderful analogy), and more “thus saith the Lord” statements don’t go in that direction.

    Frankly, I’d rather the Church appear to be (or even be) a bit passive-aggressive than have it be passive OR aggressive. I’d rather have jail that can’t be nailed to the wall than a Levitical code of conduct.

    Cowboy, you never will be able to declare your own worthiness devoid of communal “standards” that involve “right answers”. You live in society, and that just ain’t gonna happen. At least, right now, the temple recommend interview really is structured to be between you and the Lord – and as long as you can answer “correctly” with a “yes” or “no” there isn’t supposed to be any “determining worthiness for you” but anyone else. That’s about as liberal as it can get in theory, not focusing on any exact question that is asked.

    (Yeah, I know there are zealot Bishops and Stake Presidents who don’t understand that and don’t act the way they are supposed to in that situation – and who let their biases and personal views affect their actions, but that isn’t supposed to be.) The final question is supposed to be the final question – and it is the only one that is supposed to be “open to discussion” for those who can answer the others confidently and honestly.)

    Heck, personal declarations of worthiness didn’t even exist in the ministry of Jesus. Relevant to this thread, some of his statements were stricter than those that existed already in their rules – and most of them were rejected, largely because he had the gall to say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

    People who beg for more “thus saith the Lord” often don’t think through the ramifications of that request – especially if “the Lord saith” something with which they don’t agree.

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  20. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Oh, and I don’t talk much about “worthiness” to attend the temple. It’s too much of a loaded, subjective word, imo. I like “eligible” or “qualified” to attend much better, since it really is a very subjective list of questions – ironically, since each person can interpret if they can say “yes” or “no” based on their own understanding of the meaning of the questions.

    For example, is someone who pays tithing and a generous fast offering, attends the temple regularly and every possible local church meeting, serves in a position of visibility and perceived importance, makes a good living in a high profile career, sustains and supports his leaders, gives time and talents and resources generously to his community, etc. “worthy” to attend the temple?

    Everyone around him might think he’s a saint, but . . .

    What if he honestly believes there’s nothing in his conduct toward his family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he regularly abuses his wife in every way except overt physical assault and his children emotionally and verbally. What if he believes he is scrupulously honest but is a bully at work and underpays his employees?

    I think we both would say he’s not “worthy” to attend the temple, by the standard the interview tries to create, but he’s the one who gets to “declare his worthiness” – so he may be “eligible” or “qualified” to attend within the current structure, even though those who really know him the best call him a heartless bastard privately.

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  21. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    funny typo – sorry

    substitute “jello” for “jail” #19.

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  22. Paul on December 21, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Justin (14): “which are just back-handed admissions that “counsel” is actually not revelation.”

    How is use of an administrative direction an admission that counsel is not revelation?

    Michael (15): “it is merely an opinion and non-binding spiritually or culturally.” While I think I understand what you would like, I don’t see how one can possibly enforce what is culturally binding.

    Ray, I think I’m on your page.

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  23. Cowboy on December 21, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Ray:

    “Cowboy, you never will be able to declare your own worthiness devoid of communal “standards” that involve “right answers”. You live in society, and that just ain’t gonna happen. At least, right now, the temple recommend interview really is structured to be between you and the Lord – and as long as you can answer “correctly” with a “yes” or “no” there isn’t supposed to be any “determining worthiness for you” but anyone else. That’s about as liberal as it can get in theory, not focusing on any exact question that is asked.”

    True, but those communal standards are far more strict because of a bureaucracy that attempts to set certain things in stone, than they would be if personal interpretation was encouraged.

    Respectfully, we say that these interviews are beween us and the Lord, but let’s face it, in practice they take place between a human interviewer and interviewee. If we don’t need ecclesiastical help to pray to God, I can’t see why we would need one to reconcile our worthiness, if the intent is for interviews to be between us and the Lord.

    I won’t pretend to know what the CHI says, but there are clear examples where an interviewer can revoke worthiness standing based on clear and undisputed infractions. There may be room for interpretation when it comes to paying tithing on Net or Gross, but if a person drinks beer nobody is going to suggest that a Ward/Stake leader was out of line for calling foul when that person answers simply “yes” to whether they obey the WoW. A person could rationalize beer drinking based on a personal interpretation of the WoW, but the Church doesn’t allow that latitude. In this case I find it hard to argue that it is between that person and the Lord. Furthermore, let’s be frank, the interviewee can use all of their best efforts to try and justify their interpretation of the WoW, but even if the interviewer agrees, they do not have the power to change Church policy. At least not openly. In which case it is hard to argue that the Lord has anything to do with each individual interview. Instead, it is simply the interviewee and the enforcer of Church policy. This makes it all the more important for Church policy to be clearly articulated. This includes, if we are sincere in our efforts to be a Church based on truth, a forum where these things can be discussed meaningfully with leaders who can go to Sinai once and a while to take matters to the Lord. Conversely, if we each have the ability to go to our own Sinai’s, then there really isn’t much of a need for Moses, other than for Moses to get revelation relevant to Moses.

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  24. Justin on December 21, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Paul #22:

    How is use of an administrative direction an admission that counsel is not revelation?

    Really? That’s such a Jeff-style question — Because if it was, it would be presented as such. As I said:

    Look, if the “the inspired counsel of priesthood leaders” and “long-standing church practice”, etc. are actually the standard — then let’s just put them into the standard works — we have an open canon for heaven’s sake.

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  25. Justin on December 21, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    Ray #16:

    I don’t think people who are asking for more, “Thus saith the Lord,” are asking for more of the same output — just with a bit more revelatory-spank tacked onto it.

    I think they are asking for more things actually spoken by the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

    …That’s my feel of it anyway.

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  26. Cowboy on December 21, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    I Justin points to the issue quite succinctly. In practical application it wouldn’t entail more “thus saith the Lord”, but rather less. Nobody wants more meaningless edicts purporting to be the word of Lord. What we want is less ambiguous implication, worded carefully to appease plausible deniability. If they are not certain that something is “revelation”, don’t allow the faithful to believe it is. If they believe they have had a revelation, have the guts to say so, and allow it to stand the test of time. No more ambivalent posturing.

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  27. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    So, Cowboy, you want apostles who will speak exactly as you want them to speak – unless they do so like Elder McConkie and Elder Packer (and Elder Holland, when you disagree with what he said, and Pres. Beck when you disagree with what she says, and Paul in the NT, of course).

    Got it.

    If I’m misreading you, please tell me – since I didn’t mean the above to be snarky.

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  28. Ray on December 21, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    If you want to understand a little better where I’m coming from, read the following post:

    “Paul v. John; Oaks v. Andersen: Why We NEED a Quorum of 12 Apostles”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/10/paul-v-john-oaks-v-andersen-why-we-need.html

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  29. Cowboy on December 22, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    It has nothing to do with what I “want” said. For the record, when I was a believing member I was a Joseph Fielding Smith kind of Mormon. Not just for “what” he said, but rather for his willingness to say it. Over time of course a great deal of assertions have not stood up, but in my mind that is the whole point. In order to protect against the Joseph Fielding Smith types among the general leadership, we try and emphasize that Prophets are sometimes speaking from revelation which is pure, and at other times from perspective which subject to error. Then to make matters worse, the Church has appeared to adopt some quality control procedures (correlation?) where nothing is said in such a way that it can’t ever be rejected as a personal musing. Where was President Hinckley coming from, for example, when he said that women should wear only one set of earings? Now we have this Church, supposedly built on the foundation of Prophets and Apostles (subterranean foundation perhaps?) who do not Prophecy. How does that work?

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  30. Justin on December 22, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    The scriptural standard is that if a person does not have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, then they “shall not teach” (D&C 42:14) — or in other words, keep silent.

    When people are interpreting the scriptures for me or presenting a doctrine, etc. — I just ask them:

    “Are you a prophet?
    Are you a revelator?
    Do you have the spirit of prophecy and revelation?
    Does this interpretation of yours come by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, or is this your own idea?

    Etc.

    If they say that it’s their own idea or guess, then I stop listening. I just take it or leave it like I would if anyone else might say something about anything else. You can learn nothing extra-ordinary from such people about the scriptures.

    If they say that they do have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, then I listen closely to what they say — because now that can only mean one of two things:

    (1) They are true prophets sent from God
    (2) They are false prophets trying to deceive

    A true prophet, when asked if they have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, will always answer in the affirmative.

    A man just giving an honest, non-prophetic opinion ["inspired counsel"] will not claim to have the spirit of prophecy — because he fears to speak a false prophecy and be shown as an imposter.

    However, a deceiver will also say that he has the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

    So once someone claims the spirit of prophecy and revelation [comes out with a “Thus saith the Lord…“, the burden is now on me, to compare what the word of God says to what the professed prophet has said and whatever the Spirit indicates, that is what I do.

    But — Ray — I do agree that the current state of things is easier because nothing is declared as being a bona-fide prophecy or revelation. I do concede that the leaders are honest enough to not pretend to be operating by that spirit — but instead stay wishy-washy so that I may accept or reject “counsel” like I would any other piece of unqualified advice I might get from any other source.

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  31. jmb275 on December 22, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Re Ray-
    This topic is pretty important to me, so I definitely wanna discuss it.

    Look, I’m all for baseline commandments – but I don’t want to be commanded in all things. I’d rather have fewer enforced, “thus saith the Lord” rules and more personal accountability. I’m totally fine with the temple recommend questions the way they are right now – since, technically, they are yes/no questions that don’t require explanation and clarification.

    Let me be clear. I don’t disagree with you at all. I also accept the interview questions (though I would prefer we nix the questions on belief altogether). But what concerns me is what lies beneath the questions. And I guess I’m not totally comfortable with ignoring that. I hashed this out with Andrew S on Hawk’s post I linked to above, but I’m still not satisfied. If I am asked about the WoW I have to interpret what WoW means in order to provide an answer as to whether or not I keep it. What should my interpretation be? I think your argument is that it doesn’t matter as long as I keep it. I could, for example, strictly follow D&C 89, perhaps that includes drinking beer from time to time (mild drinks made from barley). But it’s not clear to me that one could (with full intent of doing it again) drink a beer from time to time and still claim in honesty they keep the WoW. Why? I think because underneath (some of) the questions there IS an expectation, a well carved out set of rules, namely, no tea, coffee, tobacco, drugs, or alcohol.

    Again, to be clear, I’m not disagreeing, I absolutely wish we had even fewer “thus saith the Lord” type pronouncements. It seems to me that you believe the current situation allows for the ideal you espouse. I’m saying I agree with the ideal but don’t see that our current situation allows for it as much as you make it seem. Until we get to a place where the WoW is really a law of health rather than an indicator of obedience, when “tithing” means parting with one’s substance rather than a 10% donation to the institution I don’t see how we’re there yet.

    I do think the church tries a little bit, hence the TR interview questions. But for all that, I still go to YM every week and hear lesson after lesson about specific proscriptions. The church is almost like a reluctant father dealing with a daughter going out on a date. When the daughter goes out at night there’s a completely loose standard for dress and rules. The daughter appears to be able to do what she wants. But the father will only buy her (and let her buy) the clothes he deems appropriate. We teach our youth from the time they’re sunbeams a specific set of beliefs, rules and standards. In their teenage years we beat that into their heads often using shame and guilt. Then why would we expect them to have any other interpretation than the one we’ve given them?

    Could you help me understand how you see this issue (and maybe the one I’m pointing out is slightly different than the one Cowboy and you are discussing)?

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  32. KT on December 22, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    To the commenter that said they pay their tithing anonymously, how did you do that? I tried to tell our Bishop that we wanted to pay anonymously, and not come in for tithing settlement, and he insisted that we come in and also that we could not pay it anonymously….He said they have to be able to attribute the $ as having come from somewhere for IRS purposes, and I asked what the heck other churches do with their anonymous donations and he didn’t know… So, anybody have any direction on that?

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  33. Justin on December 22, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    To the commenter that said they pay their tithing anonymously, how did you do that?

    KT — we didn’t tell our bishop we were going to start doing it. At the end of one year, we just decided to start calculating on a monthly basis how much of my revenue was not required for our total expenditures [our "surplus"], and then multiply that number by 0.10 and put that amount in cash into a tithing envelope with only the tithing amount filled out on the form.

    Just in answering your question, I looked and found this link to a forum where people who have served as ward clerks discuss what they’ve done with anonymous donors.

    Meaning, the church operations wouldn’t just grind to a halt if money began arriving anonymously. It’s likely that your bishop just wouldn’t know what to do in such a situation and made-up some answer about how you “can’t” do it — because it’s not in any sort of CHI SOP.

    As far as declaring tithing status — a meeting isn’t required for that. We just mail our bishop a letter at the end of the year declaring our status. The meeting is largely so you can be given a copy of the moneys received by the ward so you can go on to declare them as deductions on income tax.

    Even if you don’t want to give your bishop the headache of figuring out what he’s supposed to do with an anonymous envelope — you can still nix the meeting if you don’t intend to declare your tithing as charitable giving to the IRS.

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  34. jmb275 on December 22, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Re KT-
    Depends on what you want. I pay my tithing directly to church headquarters. My bishop never knows how much money I contributed as they don’t send him that information. My donations are not known to him. If you want something like that it’s pretty easy. I do it so I can use my bank’s bill pay to pay tithing. Otherwise, I suppose you can do it Justin’s way.

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  35. Cowboy on December 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Erase my comment #29, and just replace it with Justin’s comment #30. That is the whole point. This say’s what I am thinking perfectly:

    If they say that they do have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, then I listen closely to what they say — because now that can only mean one of two things:

    (1) They are true prophets sent from God
    (2) They are false prophets trying to deceive

    A true prophet, when asked if they have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, will always answer in the affirmative.

    A man just giving an honest, non-prophetic opinion ["inspired counsel"] will not claim to have the spirit of prophecy — because he fears to speak a false prophecy and be shown as an imposter.

    However, a deceiver will also say that he has the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

    So once someone claims the spirit of prophecy and revelation [comes out with a “Thus saith the Lord…“, the burden is now on me, to compare what the word of God says to what the professed prophet has said and whatever the Spirit indicates, that is what I do.

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  36. Ray on December 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    jmb275 (and anyone else who cares), this is going to be a bit tangential (and too long), but, if you’ve read much of what I’ve written over the years, that won’t surprise you. ;) Also, there won’t be anything new or profound in it, but it’s how I honestly would answer your question.

    1) I think our individual perceptions are based as much on our unique personalities and our personal experiences at the local level (wards, branches, stakes AND homes) as by our interaction with / exposure to the global leadership. We see the global leadership twice a year, generally, and we read something one or more of them have written once a month, generally – and that is if we are about as diligent as is “reasonably normal” (which I am not, in this case, frankly). My own “exposure” is with General Conference and whenever someone else quotes somebody in a talk or lesson. So, in “real, practical terms” . . . my impression of how “The Church” operates and affects me is influenced most strongly by my upbringing (whether or not that was in the LDS Church) and my local leaders and congregation. However, we also tend to extrapolate our experiences with local leaders onto the global leadership – and that is “reasonable”, since we don’t interact with them enough to really know them personally. We forget that, sometimes.

    2) This means how we view tithing, tithing settlement and temple recommend interviews, specifically, is going to be comprised, largely, by how we naturally see things and what we experience most directly. If we had an authoritarian, Old Testament / Paul style father, Bishop, Seminary teacher, Stake President, etc., we will tend to view these things much differently than if we had more “teach correct principles”, New Testamnet / John style parents and leaders. If we were taught initially that it was our never-wavering duty to attend every conceivable church-related meeting we are going to react differently to tithing settlement than if we were taught initially that Sacrament Meeting is the only “required” meeting and everything else fits into the “do your best to be involved in whatever you can and still be balanced” category. If you have had Bishops and Stake Presidents who were more “questioning” (intrusive) in their approach, you will see temple recommend interview differently than someone who has had Bishops and Stake Presidents who simply asked the questions and allowed those being interviewed to give the simple “yes/no” answers.

    3) Therefore, I am left to look at how the “official” practice is handled and, to the best of my ability, attempt to follow that practice on an individual basis – in whatever way makes the most sense to me. What that means in terms of tithing, tithing settlement and temple recommend interviews for ME, as an individual, is:

    a) Officially, there is NO official “one way to figure tithing”. It is left up to me to make that decision, to the best of my ability and conscience. Therefore, I pay on net income, but I have no problem whatsoever with people who pay on “increase”. I also have no problem whatsoever with someone paying their absolutely essential, non-avoidable bills and then paying on what is left – but I do have a problem, personally, if they include credit card debt or a payment on a luxury car or their projected grocery costs or anything else that, imo, moves them away from any reasonable “spirit of the law”. Iow, for me, as long as their heart is in the right place and they aren’t trying to come up with reasons to pay less just to pay less, I’m totally cool with their decision – regardless of what it is.

    b) Tithing can be paid locally through the Bishop or directly to the Church. How I pay it is left up to me. Therefore, I pay mine to our Bishop, but I have no problem with those who eliminate the middleman and pay directly to SLC.

    c) There is a formal setting called a tithing settlement interview / meeting, but status can be declared without participating in that formal setting. How (or even if) I declare my status is up to me. I don’t mind sitting down formally with a Bishop for tithing settlement – but I have no problem with someone declaring their status in any other way that works for them. This year, for example, we had a brutal time scheduling an official visit, so we ended up telling our Bishop in the hallway after Sacrament Meeting last week. That was hard for my wife to accept, given her personality and upbringing, but it didn’t faze our Bishop at all.

    d) The official pattern for temple recommend interviews is the asking of specific questions and the answering of those specific questions. How I answer the questions is up to me. Therefore, when I have my temple recommend interview, I answer with nothing more than a simple “yes” or “no” (or, in two cases – honesty and family relationships – with, “I’m trying my best and am not aware of anything that would keep me from attending the temple.”) – not because I’m trying to hide anything, but because I have no desire whatsoever in that setting to get into a discussion about anything. I don’t see the interview as having that purpose, so I don’t go there. I give my answer to each question directly and simply and wait for the next question. I understand intellectually and emotionally why some people want to talk about the questions more, but I don’t think that’s the right time or circumstance – and I think the risk of misunderstanding outweighs the potential positives. Those conversations can be had elsewhere, and I don’t think they are wise or productive in the temple recommend interview – as a general rule. Therefore, I choose to answer as simply as possible.

    In all the cases I described above, I believe I’m following BOTH the letter AND the spirit by doing so.

    Oh, and if the response is, “That’s fine, but it’s not how the Church works” – my only response possible is, “That’s how it works for me.” It might not work that way for someone else, but that also might be due as much to the difference between that someone else and me as to the differences between our respective leaders. I can’t say in each case, but it’s a very good thought experiment and chance for serious introspection, at the very least.

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  37. Ray on December 22, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Wow, that was too long. Sorry, everyone.

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  38. jmb275 on December 22, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Re Ray-
    I think I understand a bit better now. Thank you very much for the response. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

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  39. Toni on December 23, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    KT, I know a man who pays tithing directly to church headquarters. He didn’t say he paid anonymously, but it sounded like he does because he pays that way so it can’t be reported to anyone.

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  40. hawkgrrrl on December 23, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    I pay directly because it is also possible to do a direct stock transfer to the church HQ.

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  41. Cowboy on December 23, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    That gives me an interesting idea. In Utah I can envision a profit sharing strategy designed to facilitate an employer sponsored tithing plan. Even if that doesn’t work, maybe it would be possible to create some kind of a employer matching plan similar to a 401k where a person can at least create the net effect of a 5% tithing.

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  42. Toni on December 23, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Cowboy, that is so funny. The sad thing is – I can see that happening. Or even just having tithing taken “off the top” before you even see your check. How’s that for convenient?

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  43. Mai Li on December 24, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    If I am remembering correctly, that’s what was rumored to have happened during the Wilkinson years at BYU to the employees there. Anyone know if that happened for sure?

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  44. [...] week covered all of the possible aspects of the Christmas celebration — including tithing settlement! Some people analyzed holiday classics (such as A Christmas Carol and Rudolph), some wrote new [...]

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  45. Glenn Thigpen on January 1, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Why all the angst over tithing, tithing settlement, etc.? The Gospel is entirely voluntary. Tithing is voluntary. Tithing settlement is voluntary.

    Glenn

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