Showing posts with label Mark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark. Show all posts

Real Talk about Tithing

No matter how strained my relationship with the Church has become, no matter how much or how little I've had at my disposal, I have always paid a full tithe. There are people in this world, particularly disaffected former members of my church, who take personal offense at that. 

Why would anyone else care about what I do with my own resources? Why would the money I give in tithing ever be offensive to them?

Because they haven't even begun the process of deconstructing the impulse, especially present in certain LDS families, to be a relentless scold. They don't know how to interact with people beyond being a self-appointed measuring stick for the ethical behavior of others. I have to remind myself that only hurt people do stuff like this, and it truly has nothing to do with me. But the urge to be petty and ask them when the last time they bought something from Amazon was gets hard to ignore.

Another component to this is not understanding that there are legal limitations to how the Church can spend tithes and offerings, as opposed to philanthropically donated lands, funds, stocks, and estates from families like the Marriotts. Philanthropically-donated wealth paid for City Creek, not tithing funds. It's a private investment that has never been touched by tithing dollars. Anyone who doesn't know the difference is unprepared to have an intelligent, good faith conversation about what they're trying to criticize.

In all likelihood, my tithing money is paying the basic operational budgets for congregations outside of the United States. I'm paying electric bills for members of the Church in Europe. I'm paying for the disinfectants to clean the toys in Primary in New Zealand. I'm paying for basic, mundane, lifesaving things to people I don't know and will never meet. The money I give as tithes and offerings to the Church overwhelmingly pays for back to school clothes, puts food on tables and in pantries, gets medicine and wheelchairs to people in developing countries. I'm paying for youth camps in Brazil, temples in Africa, chapels in the Philippines, and for all the infrastructure in the lives of those Saints that come with them that wouldn't be there without my contribution, small as it is. 

My tithing is never going to be some life-changing amount of money, in terms of total monetary value. But Christ himself taught in the lesson of the widow's mites that it's faith and generosity, not money, that matters most to him. (See Mark 12:41-44) Jesus, who taught his people to "render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" and pulled a coin from the mouth of a fish doesn't need money. (Mark 12:14-17, Matt. 17:24-27) Rather, he needs to know whether I will place the lives of others above and beyond the value of money. I pay my tithing to demonstrate to God that there are more important things to me in this world than money.

I don't take criticism on this aspect of my faith from folks who have never heard of D. Michael Quinn, let alone the work he did to privately verify that church finances are largely boring and unremarkable.

And to show, in good faith, that I'm not some rube who truly believes no tithing dollars are ever wasted, here are some of the things I would never spend another dollar on if it were up to me. 
  1. BYU and CES 
  2. Kirton McConkie 
  3. LDS Family Services
The Church isn't perfect. But to sit here and say that the Church hasn't done any good at all with the money in its possession, that the ownership of those wrongs belongs to the members who gave that money in good faith, is totally asinine and disingenuous.
If the people making these assertions were purely interested in ethical consumption, rather than setting up others to fail moral standards they themselves could never meet, I'd take their criticism more seriously. But given that people complaining about tithing on Twitter from their iPhone, in line to buy coffee from the Starbucks inside of a Target before taking their Amazon return to the UPS store have no sense of themselves as they're going through space. They can take an entire stadium of seats.

There is no Capitalism in the Kingdom of God

16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

18 But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.

D&C 56:16-18

A reminder to all of us that there is no "capitalism," no "free market," in the Lord's kingdom.


23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:23-24

No one goes to heaven with money. You either go poor of your own free will, or you don't go.

36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:36-37

Those who have gained the world and lost their souls simply won't be there.

The Apostle Peter

Artist: Liz Lemon Swindle
I have a lot of favorite figures from the scriptures because of what their stories have come to mean to me. Some of my choicest blessings have come from seeing that I am not alone in the challenges I face. And while I could literally spend hours talking about more than a few people from the scriptures--Abraham, Moses, Job, Alma, and Ammon, I want to spend some time reflecting on someone I've had a soft spot for in my heart as of late.

I came across a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland titled The Lengthening Shadow of Peter when I was looking for something completely different a few days ago. I've read it a few times through, and it has given me a much-needed change of perspective about quite a few things in my life.

Elder Holland begins be recanting Spencer W. Kimball's reaction to someone who decided to be critical of Peter. That anyone could  be critical of Peter was rather surprising to me, I'll admit. Apparently there was a minister that took it upon himself to condemn Peter for denying Christ three times. It never occurred to me that Peter could be blamed for such a thing, and with Elder Holland's most recent General Conference talk about the Savior, we can't be certain of what exactly was taking place in those final moments of the Savior's life in regards to His apostles. But it just goes to show you that no matter how hard you try for no matter how long, someone will still manage to find fault with you. If it happened to Christ and to Peter, I shouldn't be surprised when it happens to me.

What stood out to me after that was the image of Peter that Elder Holland describes. A man full of
charity that is not content to tell his brothers and sisters to be healed, but lifts them from the ground and walks beside them towards a new life. A powerful teacher of thousands, an impressive learner who was prepared quickly to the tasks ahead of him, who did not stop to question "Can I actually do this?" because there simply wasn't time. A man that thirsted after and thrived to become a true disciple of Christ, and could envision nothing less for his life. So much so, he wept bitterly at the thought that he had failed in offering the fullest sacrifice of his heart.

The weight of Peter's tears has resonated with me deeply, and because I know something of their weight I feel as if I've made a new friend in the scriptures. Someone I cannot wait to see again, should I be counted worthy and blessed to be among the righteous who will rise to such great heights in the last day. A man of great personal integrity and leadership with whom I feel much kinship because of all that I've faced, and hope to continue to face in the name of my God, for it is an honor indeed to be called to suffer in the name of Jesus Christ.

You'll recall that I excitedly shared that I might be attending the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, New York a few posts back. To my disappointment, and even a bitter frustration, I discovered that there were no arrangements to be made that could possibly get me to Palmyra. Having prayed about that trip, I figured that I wouldn't face opposition for such a righteous desire. What could be better than wanting to go to the Sacred Grove and strengthen my witness of the most important revelation of modern Christendom? What could be better than to be in the only place I know of (outside of the temple) where Heavenly Father and His Son have stood together on the earth?

It's only just now that I have understood my answer to that plea.

I've been given an opportunity to attend a YSA conference in Scranton, Pennsylvania that will involve a trip to Harmony and the Priesthood restoration site. When I still had my eyes single to that journey to Palmyra, I wasn't willing to consider the Scranton conference as an alternative.

But understanding, even in a small portion, what I now do about having the Priesthood, and the men who brought it to the earth again, I can honestly say that I've been humbled and count myself as blessed to share in this experience that has been prepared for me.

Peter would have argued that his worth was nothing in comparison with Christ, and that's why he is Cephas, Petros, the rock upon whom Christ's church was built. I have much to learn from his example, and I pray that I might someday be even half the disciple he was.

The Custodian

Scrawled into grime covered walls of where I used to work, a revelation written in purple ink greeted me every time I had to empty the bowels of the floor machine down the drain of the trash compactor room in the Wilkinson Center.

Taught by suffering:
drop by drop
wisdom is distilled from pain.

Clearly, I was not the first person to consider such things while trying to ignore the smell of wet cardboard, rotten bananas, and stagnant water.

As I’ve contemplated the concept of Dante’s stratified Hell, I imagine that my early morning cleaning jobs would be somewhere closer to the deepest pits—reserved primarily for the people who have thrown full cups of water into a trash can, pushed staples onto the floor to be ground into the carpet, or stuck gum ANYWHERE it doesn’t belong. I could wish for no greater disgust on the guilty that would still be appropriately reciprocal to the sin.

It’s hard not to think about Hell when you’re a custodian—especially when the batteries in your iPod die before you do and you’re stuck talking to yourself for the rest of your shift. The bars between reality and insanity have never been so thin as those in the corner of an iPod screen at 5 in the morning.

Also nearby is the idea of repentance—as gentle as teasing hidden dirt down the stairs with a broom, as seemingly fruitless as spraying one’s own reflection with glass cleaner and scouring the dark circles under the eyes with a white rag. No visible difference sometimes. Sometimes all you have to show for your effort is a half smile before you round the corner and trip over your own vacuum cord. If perfection, or even grace, were a given—well, I’d certainly be out of a job.

But instead, there is much to be thankful for. Take, for example, insatiable fatigue. I know enough about REM cycles and sleep debt that I couldn’t repay mine in blood. The 5 A.M. shift isn’t a shift, it’s a way of life. To be willing to sleep anywhere at any time is constant, but to be able to is not. To stay awake out of necessity is a lesson I have no problem believing comes straight from Christ.

As painful as this experience has been, as abject as I feel when I throw myself onto the floor each morning in order to rouse myself from sleep, I see a greater good in learning, as my mother taught me, to “live tired.” If nothing else, I might actually stand a chance to miss out on hearing these words, which so often pierce my heart when I fall asleep in yet another class:

“Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I mean, the Savior didn’t ask me to do anything hard—just to stay awake in American Heritage. And Comparative Literature 201… and 202… English 251… Anthropology 101… Intro to Archaeology. In the immortal words of President Monson, “I’m embarrassed to add any more to that list.”

And despite the fact that I fail as surely as those noble and great men before me have failed, I cannot help but be critical of myself; the kind of critical that comes from being a custodian and having time to myself every day to work out my salvation as I watch the sun rise over a still sleeping world—wishing so desperately that I could find that peace. Fortunately, what better thing can I do with that time but learn what Paul taught to the Thessalonians when he said, “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”

So I press forward, my alarm clock set to 4:30 AM, a prayer in my heart, and the expectation that I’ll someday be able to rest—if not from mine afflictions, then perhaps from knowing what O Dark Thirty looks like.

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