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Applied mormonism: tithing vs. debt elimination


LDSToronto

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This came up in high priest lesson this past week. The class was divided. Here's the scenario:

Bill & Sally are in debt, and want to follow the counsel of the LDS prophets to get out of debt. However, they are in a bit of a bind. You see, Bill & Sally have a monthly budget that looks like this:

Income: $1200

Expenses (assume they are modest and can't be reduced): $1000

Tithing: $120

Debt payment: $120

Monthly balance: ($40)

The question is this: Are Bill & Sally justified in using their tithing to pay off their debt, until that debt has been eliminated? Please, no solutions like, "Pray about it", or "Bill/Sally can get a better paying job", or, "They should do <some financial trick>"... Let stick to the core issue - Will God understand if Bill & Sally use tithing money to pay debt?

H.

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Unless they receive some other answer after careful prayer, they should pay their tithing even if on paper it means they will go further into debt.

Better yet, obey the counsel of the prophets to start with and don't go into debt you can't afford.

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Unless they receive some other answer after careful prayer, they should pay their tithing even if on paper it means they will go further into debt.

So, even if they can't service their debt, they should pay their tithing? Why would you suggest this answer for Bill & Sally, knowing that the outcome could be financial disaster? I'm curious.

Better yet, obey the counsel of the prophets to start with and don't go into debt you can't afford.

Better yet, be perfect and never sin... That's obviously not a practical answer for Bill & Sally.

H.

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Hmmm...who are you the most in debt to? God...or some secular corporation? Paying which debt will provide you the longest term benefit and honor your divine heritage the most?

I'd say pay God first.

And, I'd say do everything humanly possible to stay out of debt in the first place.

Six

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This came up in high priest lesson this past week. The class was divided. Here's the scenario:

Bill & Sally are in debt, and want to follow the counsel of the LDS prophets to get out of debt. However, they are in a bit of a bind. You see, Bill & Sally have a monthly budget that looks like this:

Income: $1200

Expenses (assume they are modest and can't be reduced): $1000

Tithing: $120

Debt payment: $120

Monthly balance: ($40)

The question is this: Are Bill & Sally justified in using their tithing to pay off their debt, until that debt has been eliminated? Please, no solutions like, "Pray about it", or "Bill/Sally can get a better paying job", or, "They should do <some financial trick>"... Let stick to the core issue - Will God understand if Bill & Sally use tithing money to pay debt?

H.

If you can be square with the lord by the end of the year, I would say yes. "Annual interest", not every pay check.

If you use a definition of interest as referenced in D&C 119: 5, it concerns surplus property. It can be argued a reasonable definition of one's increase in surplus property is their increase in assets.

Payoff the debt.

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Will God understand if Bill & Sally use tithing money to pay debt?

Yes, but He cannot give the the blessing of the tithe. He may bless them through other mechanisms, but not because they broke their covenant on this point, or did not understand it, or have faith in it.

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Hmmm...who are you the most in debt to? God...or some secular corporation? Paying which debt will provide you the longest term benefit and honor your divine heritage the most?

Yes, but God's not going to send a credit collector after Bill & Sally, is he? Nor do I think the Church will collapse if they miss, say, 6 months of tithe from Bill & Sally.

On the other hand, Bill and Sally may benefit more from paying off their debt rather than paying their tithing. Money is a contentious issue in marriages, for one. And, if one has to worry about the stress of debt and bill collectors, it's tough to be spiritual, isn't it? Never mind the fact that, if the bill collectors come and garnish the wages of Bill & Sally, then they will not be able to pay tithing at all!

The benefit, in my mind, outweighs the missed blessings that temporary suspension of tithing payments will bring. Could they just not pay, miss out on a few blessings, and then start paying later? You know, repent?

H.

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Yes, but He cannot give the the blessing of the tithe. He may bless them through other mechanisms, but not because they broke their covenant on this point, or did not understand it, or have faith in it.

OK, that's a valid point. If Bill & Sally skip tithing for say, 6 months, how does that translate into missed blessing? Will they miss blessings for six months? What if, up that point, they'd faithfully paid tithing, and after a 6 month break, they pay tithing faithfully for the rest of their lives? How much will God withhold?

Also, what if, rather than seeing a decrease in blessings, they actually feel as though they have been blessed - financial burden lifted, more happiness, more joy, less stress? Can they not count that as a blessing from God for getting out of debt?

H.

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This came up in high priest lesson this past week. The class was divided. Here's the scenario:

Bill & Sally are in debt, and want to follow the counsel of the LDS prophets to get out of debt. However, they are in a bit of a bind. You see, Bill & Sally have a monthly budget that looks like this:

Income: $1200

Expenses (assume they are modest and can't be reduced): $1000

Tithing: $120

Debt payment: $120

Monthly balance: ($40)

The question is this: Are Bill & Sally justified in using their tithing to pay off their debt, until that debt has been eliminated? Please, no solutions like, "Pray about it", or "Bill/Sally can get a better paying job", or, "They should do <some financial trick>"... Let stick to the core issue - Will God understand if Bill & Sally use tithing money to pay debt?

H.

We are to give what we are able. The NT doesn't focus on the precise amount ones must give, as the OT law did. The NT focuses more on why it's important to give and doing so with a willing heart. As 2 Cor 9:7 says "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don

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OK, that's a valid point. If Bill & Sally skip tithing for say, 6 months, how does that translate into missed blessing? Will they miss blessings for six months? What if, up that point, they'd faithfully paid tithing, and after a 6 month break, they pay tithing faithfully for the rest of their lives? How much will God withhold?

Also, what if, rather than seeing a decrease in blessings, they actually feel as though they have been blessed - financial burden lifted, more happiness, more joy, less stress? Can they not count that as a blessing from God for getting out of debt?

H.

JST Genesis 14:39

Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.

That to me suggests Abraham paid net after his need. Similarly the modern revelation concerns surplus properties and interest.

In my view, paying down debts is a need, as our some other things (taxes, you can't not pay them).

There are other scriptures which command we be honest in our dealings with our fellow man.

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If ... what if...

How they keep their covenants, interpret or perceive the results, satisfy their faith or mask their pride, and attribute material satisfaction to God is entirely their prerogative. How the Lord judges them and blesses them is perfect and follows His own timing, not ours or theirs. How they prosper may have nothing to do with faith in tithing or keeping their word on anything, but He keeps His word on everything. And people can certainly repent of tithing infractions--so why not just enjoy other sins all your life and repent later?

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How they keep their covenants, interpret or perceive the results, satisfy their faith or mask their pride, and attribute material satisfaction to God is entirely their prerogative. How the Lord judges them and blesses them is perfect and follows His own timing, not ours or theirs. How they prosper may have nothing to do with faith in tithing or keeping their word on anything, but He keeps His word on everything. And people can certainly repent of tithing infractions--so why not just enjoy other sins all your life and repent later?

Interesting question, not germane to the discussion, but interesting. This isn't an example of 2 Nephi 28:8, or deathbed repentance. This is more of a Garden of Eden type problem - to satisfy one command (get out of debt), Bill and Sally must transgress another (tithing).

Doesn't the state of their heart matter? What if it grieves them so much to break the commandment of God, yet they must to satisfy the cruel demands of debt? Won't God look on that with compassion?

H.

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Interesting question, not germane to the discussion, but interesting. This isn't an example of 2 Nephi 28:8, or deathbed repentance. This is more of a Garden of Eden type problem - to satisfy one command (get out of debt), Bill and Sally must transgress another (tithing).

Doesn't the state of their heart matter? What if it grieves them so much to break the commandment of God, yet they must to satisfy the cruel demands of debt? Won't God look on that with compassion?

H.

The thing is tithing entirely depends on how you define increase. The most robust definition to increase (one that isn't affect by tax schemes (sales vs. income), home production (working at home vs. working on job) is increase in assets. Right now if all they can do is pay down their debts, their tithable income is the amount of debt they are able to pay down as that is their increase in assets.

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This came up in high priest lesson this past week. The class was divided. Here's the scenario:

Bill & Sally are in debt, and want to follow the counsel of the LDS prophets to get out of debt. However, they are in a bit of a bind. You see, Bill & Sally have a monthly budget that looks like this:

Income: $1200

Expenses (assume they are modest and can't be reduced): $1000

Tithing: $120

Debt payment: $120

Monthly balance: ($40)

The question is this: Are Bill & Sally justified in using their tithing to pay off their debt, until that debt has been eliminated?

Your question shows you don't quite understand the issue that is involved here.

The funds of Bill & Sally are theirs to do with as they please, and they are entitled to all of them, but when they pay some of their money as a tithe to the Lord it is no longer their money and that means there is no sense in which they could ever be "using their tithing".

What could happen, conceivably, if the Lord wanted to be generous, and if the Lord wanted to make his will known to Bill & Sally's bishop, would be for those funds to become available to Bill & Sally after the money passed on to their bishopric and the bishopric gave some of the Lord's money to them to use to pay down their debts, but it would be the Lord's money, rather than Bill & Sally's money, even though Bill & Sally would be able to use it to help pay down their debts.

Usually, though, the bishop will simply send them to the storehouse to get some groceries for a while so they can use their own money to pay their debts while also paying the tithe they should pay to show their appreciation for the Lord's blessings.

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Why would you suggest this answer for Bill & Sally, knowing that the outcome could be financial disaster?

The problem is that some of us don't 'know' this. In fact, we may know otherwise. From personal experience.

Could they just not pay, miss out on a few blessings, and then start paying later?

If Bill & Sally skip tithing for say, 6 months, how does that translate into missed blessing?

I suspect it comes down to what blessings they might be missing. Is coming to know that God is absolutely real and that, as impossible as it may seem, He keeps His word and therefore can be trusted fully a blessing worth missing?

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This is more of a Garden of Eden type problem - to satisfy one command (get out of debt), Bill and Sally must transgress another (tithing).

Doesn't the state of their heart matter? What if it grieves them so much to break the commandment of God, yet they must to satisfy the cruel demands of debt? Won't God look on that with compassion?

If it was a Garden of Eden type problem, then they would simply have to face the penalty of transgressing one command to keep another and God will bless them accordingly. But this isn't a Garden of Eden scenario on so many levels that a discussion of that will take on a life of its own.

RE: their state of their heart and God's compassion, I addressed this with "How they keep their covenants, interpret or perceive the results, satisfy their faith or mask their pride, and attribute material satisfaction to God is entirely their prerogative. How the Lord judges them and blesses them is perfect and follows His own timing, not ours or theirs."

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Your question shows you don't quite understand the issue that is involved here.

Really?

The funds of Bill & Sally are theirs to do with as they please, and they are entitled to all of them, but when they pay some of their money as a tithe to the Lord it is no longer their money and that means there is no sense in which they could ever be "using their tithing".

OK, for the pedantic amongst us... Bill and Sally set aside 10% of their income that they would use to pay tithing. However, this time, and for the next 6 months, they will not set aside 10% of their income for payment of tithing, rather, they will set aside that aforementioned 10% for debt reduction, and will pay no tithing.

Of course I know that once in the bishopric's hands, the tithing isn't accessible by the members...However, for those (well, for Ahab) who can't fill in the blanks, I've provided the above.

What could happen, conceivably, if the Lord wanted to be generous, and if the Lord wanted to make his will known to Bill & Sally's bishop, would be for those funds to become available to Bill & Sally after the money passed on to their bishopric and the bishopric gave some of the Lord's money to them to use to pay down their debts, but it would be the Lord's money, rather than Bill & Sally's money, even though Bill & Sally would be able to use it to help pay down their debts.

Usually, though, the bishop will simply send them to the storehouse to get some groceries for a while so they can use their own money to pay their debts while also paying the tithe they should pay to show their appreciation for the Lord's blessings.

Ah, you're cheating a bit, but I'll give you a point. But here is a follow up. Shouldn't bishops just do this for everyone in debt, to help them clear debt faster? I've seen welfare disbursements, and they exceed recipient tithing amounts each time, so I tend to think that Bill and Sally aren't in dire enough straits to qualify for assistance. I mean, they could just file bankruptcy and be done with it, right?

H.

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We are again facing the issue of financial ignorance. Mr & Mrs. Bill are not using their money properly, and their debt is only an illustration of their lack of knowledge.

In most cases, people in just this situation can change their monthly cash flow far more than the $40 they are now short, and will be able, with the additional cash flow, pay off their debt in a startlingly short time.

By using his money properly, one can pay off a brand-new, 30-year mortgage in ~5

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We are again facing the issue of financial ignorance. Mr & Mrs. Bill are not using their money properly, and their debt is only an illustration of their lack of knowledge.

In most cases, people in just this situation can change their monthly cash flow far more than the $40 they are now short, and will be able, with the additional cash flow, pay off their debt in a startlingly short time.

By using his money properly, one can pay off a brand-new, 30-year mortgage in ~5

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I hope there is no church leader, or member, that would advocate incurring increased debt in order to pay tithing.

Sort of where I am coming from, too. Thanks.

False dichotomy. They can do both: pay off the debt and pay their tithing.

I have reversed people who are up to 10% negative every month. In Bill & Sally's case, they could be spending as much as $80 more every month and they'd still be able to pay off their debt and pay their tithing as per counsel.

Lehi

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