There’s a new troubling trend emerging promoted by a national Latter-day Saint columnist and others with large followers on social media. It’s becoming trendy in some circles to take on this approach as acceptable alternative tithes to that required of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let’s call it “trendy tithing.”
In this case, it’s not troublesome media reporting about the Church that should be pointed out, it’s the fact that those with some level of media credibility, ethical responsibility and celebrity are using their status to convince their audience that trendy tithing is acceptable and even encouraged, particularly if you’ve got some doubt about your faith.
Here’s the argument: “Because I have determined in my own mind that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has such a large amount of wealth and that bothers me, I am going to take my tithing elsewhere, to other causes that I decide need my contributions. And the Church has enough resources they won’t miss my measly contribution anyway.”
While such an act is punctuated by an attitude of self-righteousness, those who espouse this philosophy deny the foundational blessings that are promised through tithe paying. The flawed logic is part of a larger issue that would say God doesn’t mind how one lives any commandment and starts down a slippery slope that declares there’s no absolute Gospel truths, just a bunch of mugwump grays.
So, what’s missed in all of this self-justification? The scriptures read: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … 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” (Malachi 3:10).
Why would anyone not want the blessings afforded by paying tithing?
In 1838, tithing was made a “standing law” made through the Prophet Joseph Smith unto the Church in place of the higher law of consecration. Section 119, verses 4 and 5 read:
5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of aZion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.
In addition, the temple endowment includes the “Law of Consecration, which means dedicating our time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed us to building up Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth,” according to a Church website.
So, what the new advocates of trendy tithing are leading people even further away from the standard of consecration. Call it self-centered charitable giving that denies God’s promises.
Also, some complain that tithing shouldn’t be used as a standard of worthiness for ordinances or temple worship. However, in verse 4, the Lord makes a clear link between worthiness and tithing. Prophets and apostles over time have taught the Saints that paying tithing is an expression of faith in God and His work. It is a prerequisite in worthiness interviews before accepting covenants because it is an outward symbol of faith.
There is clear evidence presented by so many of the promised temporal and spiritual blessings of paying tithes. By short circuiting the Law of Tithing with our own choices about who is deserving of our funds denies us promised and wonderful blessings. Those who advocate such self-serving philosophies are trying to find some comfortable ground between the law and their own vanity while denying the opportunity to show faith and receive spiritual help for “abiding the law. “
While the advocates of trendy tithing paying may claim they are still paying to build good works, they show a degree of faithlessness in Prophets and other Church leaders who spend tithes and offerings under divine direction. Those who practice trendy tithing may be in fact engaging in a little divine larceny. Of course, the proponents of trendy tithing will simply say the “Orthodox” Saints are just blind to a new way of viewing a very old commandment.
Trendy tithing advocates have adjusted the scriptural pattern of tithe paying to “their own image.” The scriptures make clear that tithing is to be given on behalf of the work of the Lord to priesthood authorities. Abraham did not seek out the Salem Food Bank or the Bethlehem United Way to pay his tithes, he specifically sought out the ruling high priest of the day — Melchizedek, designated as the “keeper of the storehouse of God.” See Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:37-39.
Latter-day Saints have an obligation today to seek out today’s presiding high priests — bishops — for the payment of tithes. In addition, Latter-day Saints have the agency and obligation in our society to support charitable causes with funds and good works which help the lives of all humankind. However, conflating the two obligations undermines faith and is a grave misunderstanding of the law, its promises and intended blessings.